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Saudi detainees released from Guantanamo

19-05-2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Fifteen Saudi Arabians were released on Thursday from the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transferred to their home country, the Pentagon said.

The announcement came Thursday evening after their plane landed in Saudi Arabia.

According to Pentagon spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, there are now 120 detainees remaining at Guantanamo who are considered eligible for transfer or release. Their release, he said, is subject to discussions between the United States and other nations.

The Saudis were released after an administrative review process determined they could be transferred.

They were among an estimated 100 Saudis held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba, some of them for more than four years. Their detention has been an irritant in the otherwise improving relationship between the Bush administration and the Saudi kingdom, which U.S. officials say has been helpful in tracking and stopping terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Most of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.

So far, 192 detainees have been released from Guantanamo and 95 more transferred to other governments, including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and Uganda.

About 460 detainees remain at Guantanamo.

''The United States does not desire to hold detainees for any longer than necessary,'' Gordon said. ''The department expects that there will continue to be other transfers or releases of detainees.''

A total of 759 inmates have been held over the years at Guantanamo, according to Defense Department documents released to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Of those, 136 have been Saudis, making them the second largest contingent of Guantanamo prisoners, behind only the 218 Afghans.

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