Five men who were held for more than a decade without charge at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent to the Central Asian nation of Kazakhstan for resettlement, the US government said.
The five men “were unanimously approved for transfer” after a thorough review by a task force of several US government agencies, the Pentagon said in a statement on Tuesday.
The two men from Tunisia and three from Yemen had been cleared for release from the prison by a government task force but could not be sent to their homelands.
The US has sent hundreds of prisoners from Guantanamo to hird countries but this is the first time Kazakhstan has accepted any for resettlement.
Their release brings the prison population at Guantanamo down to 127, according to a Pentagon statement.
The US identified the Tunisians as 49-year-old Adel Al-Hakeemy, and Abdallah Bin Ali al Lufti, who military records show is about 48.
The Yemenis are Asim Thabit Abdullah Al-Khalaqi, who is about 46; Muhammad Ali Husayn Khanayna, who is about 36; and Sabri Mohammad al Qurashi, about 44.
All five had been captured in Pakistan and turned over to the US for detention as suspected armed fighters with ties to al-Qaeda.
None of the men were ever charged and a government task force determined it was no longer necessary to hold them.
The US does not say why they could not be sent home but the government has been unwilling to send Yemenis to their country because of unrest and militant activity there while in the past some Tunisians have feared persecution.
The transfers came just days after Obama’s envoy overseeing the release of Guantanamo inmates, Cliff Sloan, resigned from his post.
Sloan had reportedly become frustrated at the slow pace of transfers, which have to be approved by the Pentagon.
Outgoing Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, who resigned in November, had reportedly come under pressure from the White House to move more swiftly to approve proposed transfers of detainees.
Nearly 30 prisoners have been resettled in third countries this year as part of President Barack Obama’s renewed push to close the detention centre amid opposition from the US Congress.
The facility is approaching its 13th year, as the first detainees arrived on January 11, 2002.