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Pentagon releases Saudi detainee from Guantanamo Bay

Muhammed Murdi Issa Al-Zahrani was released to the Saudi government because he is not a "continuing significant threat to the security of the United States," according to the Department of Defense.

By
Fred Lambert
A guard watches over detainees in Camp IV in Camp Delta at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba on July 8, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg
A guard watches over detainees in Camp IV in Camp Delta at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay in Cuba on July 8, 2010. UPI/Roger L. Wollenberg | License Photo

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- A Saudi man and former militant was released from Guantanamo Bay and transferred to a rehabilitation program in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Department of Defense reports.

In a statement released Saturday, DOD said the detention of Muhammed Murdi Issa Al-Zahrani "does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States." That conclusion comes from an Oct. 3 review from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State; the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

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According to military records obtained by the Marine Corps Times, Al-Zahrani is a 45-year-old al-Qaida-linked militant who traveled to Afghanistan for training in 1999. He has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2002.

Al-Zahrani's lawyers said that he only wanted to return to Saudi Arabia to see his mother before she dies. One of the factors in his release was his agreement to participate in a militant rehabilitation program in his home country. He left Guantanamo Bay Friday, the same day U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met with defense officials from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to express "appreciation for the strategic partnership" in the fight against Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria.

The review that led to Al-Zahrani's transfer is known as a Periodic Review Board, a process established by an executive order from President Barack Obama in March.

The Obama administration has long sought closure of the U.S. base in Cuba, issuing an executive order in 2009 that was blocked by actions in Congress.

Al-Zahrani is the 13th prisoner to be transferred from Guantanamo Bay this year, and the eighth in the past three weeks. Five former Taliban prisoners were traded for U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl earlier this year.

There are 142 detainees still at Guantanamo Bay, according to DOD.

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