U.S. News

Three Guantanamo detainees sent to Ireland, Yemen

A view of Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base August 5, 2009. REUTERS/Deborah Gembara

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three detainees held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to Ireland and Yemen, the Justice Department said on Saturday, the latest transfers as President Barack Obama tries to close the facility by January.

Yemeni Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed was sent to his home country, while two other detainees were sent to Ireland, the U.S. government said, adding it would not identify the two at the request of the government of Ireland.

There are still some 223 detainees at the prison. Some are expected to be transferred abroad while others could face charges in U.S. military tribunals or in American courtrooms.

Obama has pledged to close by mid-January 2010 the facility set up by the Bush administration in 2002 to hold foreigners captured after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan.

But recent reports have suggested that the administration may not meet the deadline because of legal, political and diplomatic issues involving the detainees.

Ireland previously had said it was looking at taking in two Uzbek prisoners. The United States has worried about sending some of the prisoners back to their home countries where they might be persecuted.

Earlier this week, the Obama administration said it had struck a deal with the tiny island nation of Palau to take in as many as 12 Chinese Uighur detainees, and that so far six have agreed to go. Another four Uighurs have been moved to Bermuda.

Many detainees, including Ahmed, have challenged their detention at Guantanamo in a U.S. federal court. So far 30 have won legal battles ordering their release while seven have been denied.

Reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky; Editing by Xavier Briand