MIAMI – The Obama administration’s task force has cleared a third of the Guantanamo detainees for release, and the military has posted notices in the camps in a bid to signal that, for some war-on-terror captives, an end of their days in Cuba may be on the horizon.
In all, 78 detainees have been cleared, according to the notice that circulated in the prison camps last week. It did not name the detainees among them who could leave after diplomatic arrangements are made and instead broke the number down by nationalities.
Over the weekend, the Obama administration sent two Uzbeks for resettlement in Ireland and returned a Yemeni to his homeland in compliance with a judge’s order.
That left 223 detainees at Guantanamo, 75 now cleared to go.
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, a Guantanamo spokesman, said staff began circulating the notice in September as part of a new information campaign, tracking for detainees the progress of the review.
An earlier initiative had guards post multilingual copies of President Barak Obama’s Jan. 22 executive order in detention center recreation areas announcing a one-year time frame for closure, a deadline the Obama administration now says it may not meet.
“We’re not focused on whether or not the deadline will or won’t be met on a particular day,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Monday. “We’re focused on ensuring that the facility is closed and … to make the most progress that we can that’s possible.”
Yemenis account for the largest single bloc cleared for release – 27 – which should come as no surprise because about 40 percent of the detainees are citizens of Yemen, Osama bin Laden’s ancestral homeland.
U.S. diplomats and their Yemen counterparts have so far failed to reach an overarching repatriation agreement on security guarantees for the men who had been held for years at the detention center in southeast Cuba, nearly all without charge.
A Yemeni Embassy statement issued in Washington over the weekend said it “welcomes with enthusiasm” the single release and transfer of a citizen, Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed. It vowed to “continue its diplomatic dialogue” with the U.S. government “to repatriate the remaining Yemeni detainees.”
Another large bloc cleared for release includes 13 citizens of China, members of the Uighur Muslim minority, some of whom are likely to be resettled in the Pacific island nation of Palau.
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