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Airline Issues Alert for Former Gitmo Detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab

RIO DE JANEIRO — A South American airline is asking its employees to be on the lookout for a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was resettled in Uruguay after being freed by U.S. authorities.

The alert about Syrian native Abu Wa'el Dhiab adds to a growing mystery about his whereabouts. Uruguayan authorities have insisted for weeks that he is visiting neighboring Brazil and that as a refugee he is entitled to leave Uruguay, but the Brazilian government has said there is no record of Dhiab entering the country.

Image: Avianca planes in Bogota, Colombia
Avianca planes. JOHN VIZCAINO / Reuters

Danilo Alves, a spokesman for Colombia-based Avianca Airlines in Sao Paulo, told The Associated Press on Monday that the alert was issued internally to employees, but declined to give any more details.

Dhiab was never charged by U.S. officials and was later cleared for release from the U.S. military's base on Cuba.

Belela Herrera, a former Uruguayan deputy foreign minister who is a human rights activist, said Dhiab had told friends in Uruguay's capital that he planned to keep to himself while spending the about-to-end Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the Uruguay-Brazil border region, where there is a Muslim community and mosques.

"He has a valid identity card, issued by the Uruguayan government, that allows him to go to other countries. He is not a fugitive from justice," Herrera told The AP.

Image: Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi (left) and Abu Wa'el Dhiab (right)
Freed Guantanamo Bay detainees Abu Wa'el Dhiab (right) and Adel bin Muhammad El Ouerghi (left) stand next to the window of their shared home in Montevideo, Uruguay, on in June 5, 2015. Matilde Campodonico / AP File

Dhiab is one of six former Guantanamo detainees resettled in Uruguay in late 2014.

Then President Jose Mujica invited them as a humanitarian gesture, but for several of the men, their time in Uruguay has been fraught with problems. They initially complained the government wasn't helping them enough and they also refused to get jobs, drawing criticism from Uruguayans.

Dhiab, who suffers several health problems related to hunger strikes he undertook while held at Guantanamo Bay, has been particularly vocal about his unhappiness in Uruguay.

Several weeks ago, Uruguayan media began reporting that he had left the country. Government officials said he had traveled to Brazil and insisted he had a right to do so. They said he had not broken any law and was not being sought.

However, last week the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay said American authorities were "collaborating" with Brazilian and Uruguayan authorities to locate Dhiab.