WASHINGTON: The United States released a suspected al Qaeda propagandist to the government of Kuwait on Friday, leaving a total of 104 inmates at the U.S. naval prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The U.S. Defense Department announced the repatriation of Faez Mohammed Ahmed al Kandari, a Kuwaiti who had been held at Guantanamo for 13 years, in a statement. It said his detention “does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”
Kandari, 38, was suspected of being a propagandist and also may have served as “spiritual adviser” to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to a U.S. Department of Defense profile.
“Mr. Al Kandari is delighted to be going home and reuniting with his beloved parents and family after all these years away,” Lewis said.
He said Kandari was the last of 12 Kuwaitis who had been at Guantanamo, which the George W. Bush administration established as a prison for foreign nationals captured in its “war on terror” following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
General John F. Kelly, outgoing commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday that more Guantanamo inmates would be released this month but did not elaborate.
“If they go back to the fight, we’ll probably kill them,” Kelly said, adding that the detainees at Guantanamo were “bad boys.”
“I think we can all quibble on whether 13 or 12 or eight years in detention is enough to have them pay for whatever they did, but they’re bad guys,” Kelly added.
Kandari’s release came after the parole-style Periodic Review Board determined in September that his detention was no longer necessary.
The board, established by President Barack Obama in 2011, is comprised of six intelligence and national security departments and agencies. After detainees are approved for transfer, the U.S. government has to find countries willing to take them and provide the security arrangements.
Obama, who campaigned in 2008 on a pledge to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, views it as a damaging symbol of detainee abuse and detention without charge that he inherited from Bush. He is still working on a plan to close it, despite opposition from the Republican-controlled Congress.
Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced two Yemeni detainees were transferred to Ghana. The day before his release, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said 46 of those remaining have been approved for transfer.