US & Canada

Guantanamo detainees transferred to Sudan

Image caption Ibrahim Idris was escorted off a US military plane on arrival in Khartoum

One of the first inmates at Guantanamo Bay is among two detainees to have been transferred to Sudan, according to US officials.

Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris, 52, arrived at the prison in January 2002 and was never charged.

He was transferred with Noor Uthman Muhammed, 51. Both men were considered by the US to be members of al-Qaeda.

The latest repatriations are part of a renewed push by US President Barack Obama to close Guantanamo Bay.

The two men arrived at the airport in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, in the early hours of Thursday.

Earlier this month, two detainees were transferred to Saudi Arabia and two to Algeria.

Promise of release

Idris was captured in Pakistan in December 2011 along with 31 other suspected fighters.

The group was referred to by US intelligence as the Dirty 30, thought to be the bodyguards or close associates of al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden.

Idris was brought to Guantanamo Bay on the day the prison camp in Cuba opened on 11 January 2002.

His transfer to Sudan followed a court ruling in October, when his lawyers argued he was too mentally and physically ill to pose a threat.

Image caption The first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo Bay detention centre on 11 January 2002

Muhammed had already been held at Guantanamo for nearly nine years when he pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in 2011 in exchange for a promise of release.

The two men were the last Sudanese prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. A total of 158 detainees remain at the prison.

The repatriations come despite Congress blocking transfers from Guantanamo to nations considered by the US as "state sponsors of terror", which includes Sudan.

The US Defense Department announced the transfers on Wednesday.

"The United States coordinated with the government of Sudan regarding appropriate security measures and to ensure that these transfers are consistent with our humane treatment policy," Pentagon spokesman Lt Col Todd Breasseale said in a statement.

"Early this morning, an American military plane arrived in Khartoum, bringing Mohammed Noor Uthman and Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris," Sudan's official SUNA news agency reported.

In January 2009, President Obama ordered the closure of Guantanamo within a year.

Many of the detainees have been held there for more than a decade, with many were cleared for release years ago.

Amnesty International praised the latest transfers but said the progress was not fast enough, according to Reuters.

"(President Obama's) administration has the authority under current law to do it and half the people still held are cleared to leave," said Zeke Johnson, director of the organisation's security and human rights programme.

Image caption President Obama pledged a new push to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in April

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