More Guantanamo Ex-inmates Tied to Militants: Pentagon

An increasing number of former detainees from the US prison in Guantanamo have forged links to militant groups after their release, the Pentagon said this week.

The precise number remained classified but was in keeping with a previous Defence Department report in April that said 14 percent of former inmates had engaged in or were suspected of having ties to militants, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.

“I can’t give you the numbers, other than to say that I do not believe that trend has reversed itself,” Morrell told a news conference.

Human rights groups have dismissed the Pentagon’s numbers as propaganda, saying the information was too vague and that most of the detainees that had allegedly “returned to the fight” were not identified.

The April report showed an increase from 11 to 14 percent in what the Pentagon calls the recidivism rate for detainees transferred out of the prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The issue has taken on heightened importance after a failed attack on a US airliner on Christmas Day was tied to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, where two former Guantanamo detainees are believed to be acting as senior leaders, including Said Ali al-Shihri.

President Barack Obama suspended transfers this week of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen following the Christmas Day incident.

The administration is under intense pressure from domestic critics not to send more detainees back to Yemen due to fears they could slip into extremism in the Arab nation, where Al-Qaeda has expanded its presence in recent years.

Morrell said deciding which of the remaining 198 detainees at Guantanamo could be transferred to another country was a daunting challenge.

“This is an inexact science,” he said.

“We are making subjective calls based upon judgment, intelligence. And so there is no foolproof answer in this realm. That’s what makes this so difficult.”

The Pentagon was preparing to release the latest numbers and details on former Guantanamo detainees suspected of extremist links, Morrell said.

Obama has vowed to close the controversial Guantanamo prison, where 198 inmates are still held. Of the remaining detainees, about 91 are Yemeni, according to defense officials.

Seven Yemeni detainees have already been sent home by the Obama administration, including six in December. Several others were repatriated during George W. Bush’s administration.

A high-level Obama administration task force is working to determine the fate of the remaining prisoners at Guantanamo, including some of the most wanted terror suspects.

Some inmates will face trial before military or civilian courts and others will be detained indefinitely because they are considered too dangerous to release but cannot be tried because evidence against them is scant or tainted.

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