The New York Times' Charlie Savage reports that the United States military transferred two Libyan detainees to Senegal on Monday. The two men, Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr and Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby, were held at Guantanamo Bay for roughly 14 years. There are now 89 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay; 35 of those have been recommended for transfer, assuming certain security conditions can be met. The Times notes that 9 additional detainees are expected to be transferred sometime in the next two weeks.
Omar Khalifa Mohammed Abu Bakr, who is either 43 or 44, was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 and was suspected of having links to al Qaeda. Salem Abdul Salem Ghereby, 55, was also captured in Pakistan, but in December 2001 by Pakistani security forces, and is suspected of having fled to the mountains after the battle of Tora Bora. Both men, the Times writes, "were suspected of being longtime members of a Libyan Islamist group—known as the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or L.I.F.G.—that was dedicated to overthrowing the dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, and of having served as explosives trainers at Islamist training camps in Afghanistan."
Mr. Ghereby was cleared for release in 2009. In August 2015, a periodic review board recommended Mr. Bakr for release as well, writing:
While the board acknowledges the detainee’s past terrorist-related activities and connections, it found that the risk the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated by: the detainee’s significantly compromised health condition; the detainee’s record of compliance with camp rules, and positive, constructive role in the detention environment, including mediating concerns raised between other detainees and guard staff; and the detainee’s recent engagement with his family illustrating his intent to move forward in a positive manner.
The Pentagon released the following press statement announcing the transfer:
The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Senegal.
As directed by the president's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of this case. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, Ghereby was unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force.
On Aug. 20, 2015, the Periodic Review Board consisting of representatives from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State; the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence determined continued law of war detention of Umar does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, Umar was recommended for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the Periodic Review Board. The Periodic Review Board process was established by the president's March 7, 2011 Executive Order 13567.
In accordance with statutory requirements, the secretary of defense informed Congress of the United States' intent to transfer these individuals and of the secretary's determination that these transfers meets the statutory standard.
The United States is grateful to the Government of Senegal for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Senegal to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.
Today, 89 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.