Four Yemeni detainees from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility have been transferred to Saudi Arabia, the Saudi government and the Pentagon announced Thursday.
The transfers bring the population at the facility down to 55 and are part of President Obama’s final push to clear the facility of as many detainees as possible before he leaves office.
The detainees were identified as Mohamed Ragab Sadek Abu Ghanem, Salim Ahmed Hadi bin Kanad, Abdullah Yahya Yousef Shibli and Muhammad Ali Abdulla Mohammed Bawazir.
A January 2016 military profile of Ghanem described him as an “experienced militant who probably acted as a guard” for Osama bin Laden. He was also allegedly associated with the plotters of the USS Cole bombing, according to the profile
A 2014 profile of bin Kanad said he fought on the frontlines in a Taliban unit and “possibly served a low-level leadership role.” He also “possibly received extremist training from al Qaeda, although [he] consistently has refused to answer questions regarding any al Qaeda affiliation,” the profile said.
Shibli’s 2007 military profile said he attended multiple al-Qaida training camps, participated in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces and was in Afghanistan “two years longer than he claimed.”
Bawazir’s 2008 profile said he was a member of al-Qaida and fought U.S. and coalition forces as part of bin Laden’s 55th Arab Brigade. At the time, the report predicted he would return to extremism if released “without rehabilitation, close supervision and means to successfully reintegrate into society.”
Bawazir was given the chance to be transferred to Montenegro last January, but decided to stay at Guantanamo at the last minute, reportedly fearing going to a country without any family.
Bawazir and Shibli were cleared for transfer in 2009, but couldn't be sent home because of a law barring transfers to Yemen because of its civil war. Ghamen and bin Kanad were previously deemed too dangerous to transfer, but were approved for transfer by a parole-like board this year based on their cooperation, among other factors.
Saudi Arabia previously accepted nine Guantanamo detainees last April and has a government-run rehabilitation program to help reintegrate former militants into society.
Obama had promised to close the Guantanamo detention facility during his first campaign for the presidency, but has faced impediments from Congress, including a ban on transfers to the United States.
Unable to fulfill his promise, Obama has tried to empty it as much as he can, vowing to continue transfers to foreign countries until the last day of his presidency. The administration has reportedly notified Congress of plans to transfer up to 19 detainees.
President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHarris stumps for McAuliffe in Virginia On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — The Facebook Oversight Board is not pleased MORE has said he he’ll keep the facility open and “load it up with bad dudes.”
He’s also called on Obama not to transfer anyone else, tweeting on Tuesday that “there should be no further releases from Gitmo.”