Accessibility links

U.S. Suspends Guantanamo Prisoner Transfer To Yemen

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The Obama administration today suspended the transfer of detainees from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay to Yemen as a result of the deteriorating security situation there.

President Barack Obama bowed to political pressure from Democratic and Republican lawmakers not to send any more prisoners to Yemen as a result of revelations that a would-be bomber on a Detroit-bound plane had received Al-Qaeda training in Yemen.

Several of the roughly 91 Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo Bay had been cleared to be sent home, as the Obama administration struggles to close the prison.

White House officials made clear that the suspension was considered a temporary one.

"While we remain committed to closing the [Guantanamo] facility, a determination has been made, right now any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea," said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.

The White House decision came after "The Times" newspaper of London reported that at least a dozen former Guantanamo Bay prisoners had rejoined Al-Qaeda to fight in Yemen.

White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan had left the door open to more transfers to Yemen as recently as January 3 in a round of television interviews. He stressed that no decisions would be made that would put Americans at risk.

Some leading Democrats from Obama's own party had called for a halt to the transfers, including Representative Jane Harman, a member of the House of Representatives' Homeland Security Committee.

In addition, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and independent Joe Lieberman had written Obama late last month urging him to halt the transfers.

"We must do everything in our power to ensure that these detainees do not pose a future threat to the United States. Until we are certain that released detainees will not return to the battlefield, all detainee transfers to Yemen should cease," they wrote.

Obama has encountered various complications in trying to close the Guantanamo facility and has acknowledged he will not be able to meet a self-imposed one-year deadline to close it that he promised when he took office last January.

Just last month his aides announced the U.S. government would proceed with buying an Illinois prison and bolstering security there so a limited number of Guantanamo detainees can be transferred to it.