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U.S. sends two Syrians from Guantanamo to Portugal

By Jeremy Pelofsky
/ Source: Reuters

By Jeremy Pelofsky

Two Syrians held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay have been sent to Portugal, the U.S. Justice Department said on Friday, the latest move as President Barack Obama tries to close the facility in five months.

Portugal's foreign ministry said earlier this month it would accept the two Syrians, who had been cleared of any terrorism charges but could not return to their home country for fear of persecution. Their names were not released.

"We would not have proceeded with the transfers if the United States or Portugal had any security-related concerns that were not adequately addressed," said Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd.

The prison, on a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was opened by the Bush administration to hold suspected militants after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

Since Obama took office in January, 14 detainees have been released from Guantanamo and sent overseas. One other man was sent to New York, where he awaits trial in a U.S. federal court on terrorism-related charges.

Earlier this week, the United States released one of the youngest detainees held at Guantanamo to Afghanistan.

Obama pledged days after taking office to close the controversial detention camp within a year. But some U.S. lawmakers have questioned whether he can deal with the remaining 226 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay by then.