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Trump Signs Order To Keep Guantanamo Bay Detention Center Open

Chain link fence and concertina wire surrounds a guard tower within Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Camp Delta at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he has signed an executive order to keep the high-security U.S. military detention center open at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Trump made the announcement during his State of the Union address to the U.S. Congress late on January 30.

"In the past, we have foolishly released hundreds of dangerous terrorists, only to meet them again on the battlefield -- including the ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi," Trump said in his address.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was captured in Iraq by U.S. forces and held in a prison near Baghdad. In 2004, however, he was handed over to Iraqi authorities, who released him some time later.

"I just signed an order directing [Defense] Secretary [Jim] Mattis to reexamine our military detention policy and to keep open the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay," Trump said.

The executive order reverses a decision by Trump's predecessor, Barack Obama, to close the controversial facility -- preserving the detention center as a U.S. counterterrorism tool.

President George W. Bush opened Guantanamo after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States in order to hold and interrogate suspected enemy combatants.

At its peak in 2003, it held about 680 detainees. More than 500 were released during the Bush administration and 197 during Obama's eight years in office. It now holds 41 detainees.

Obama's 2009 executive order stated the detention center should be closed "as soon as practicable," but it remained open because of opposition to its closure from the U.S. Congress.

One of the most infamous detainees there is the alleged mastermind of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad. He has been held at Guantanamo Bay since 2006.

During his 2016 election campaign for the U.S. presidency, Trump pledged to keep the facility open, saying, "We're gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we're gonna load it up."

With reporting by Mike Eckel in Washington, AP, Reuters, ABC-TV, and Politico
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