U.S. transfers two Guantanamo Bay detainees to Pakistan


FILE PHOTO: The United States flag flies inside of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Camp VI at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) - The United States has transferred two brothers from the Guantanamo Bay U.S. detention facility in Cuba to Pakistan, bringing the total number of people held at Guantanamo down to 32, the Pentagon said on Thursday.

The Guantanamo camp was established by Republican President George W. Bush in 2002 to house foreign terrorism suspects following the 2001 hijacked plane attacks on New York and the Pentagon that killed about 3,000 people.

It came to symbolize the excesses of the U.S. "war on terror" because of harsh interrogation methods that critics have said amounted to torture.

There were 40 detainees when President Joe Biden, a Democrat, took office in 2021. Biden has said he hopes to close the facility. The federal government is barred by law from transferring Guantanamo detainees to U.S. mainland prisons.

On Thursday, the Pentagon announced the repatriation of Abdul Rabbani and Mohammed Rabbani to Pakistan.

Both were arrested in 2002. Abdul Rabbani was an al Qaeda facilitator while Mohammed Rabbani was a financial and travel facilitator for prominent al Qaeda leaders, according to the Pentagon's website.

"The United States appreciates the willingness of the Government of Pakistan and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing the Guantanamo Bay facility," the Pentagon said in a statement.

A total of 32 detainees remain, of whom 18 are eligible for transfer, the Pentagon said in its statement.

(Reporting by Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; Editing by Leslie Adler))

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Xinhua Middle East news summary at 2200 GMT, March 23

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