KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia offered Saturday to take back two citizens who are prominent terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison after President Barack Obama ordered the closure of the facility.
Prime Minister Ahmad Ahmad Badawi said the Malaysian government is seeking permission for its police officers to meet the two men for the first time since their transfer in September 2006 from secret CIA prisons to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay for trials.
"If possible, we'd like to bring both of them home" so that they can be held in Malaysian custody if necessary, Malaysia's national news agency, Bernama, quoted Abdullah as telling reporters during a visit to Dubai.
An estimated 245 men are being held at the U.S. naval base in Cuba, most of whom have been detained for years without being charged with a crime. Among the issues the Obama administration has to resolve is where to put those detainees — whether back in their home countries or at other federal detention centers.
The two Malaysians — Mohd Farik Bin Amin, better known as Zubair, and Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, also known as Lillie — are so-called high-value detainees at Guantanamo. They were captured separately in Thailand in 2003 and have undergone U.S. military hearings to affirm their status as "enemy combatants" eligible for military trials.
Mohd Farik allegedly helped the Southeast Asian terror network Jemaah Islamiyah's operational planner case targets for potential attacks. He is believed to have been tapped to be a suicide operative for an Al Qaeda attack on Los Angeles.
Mohammed Nazir allegedly helped transfer funds from Al Qaeda to Jemaah Islamiyah, some of which was used for operational expenses in a 2003 car bombing at the J.W. Marriott hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia that killed 12 people.
Abdullah on Saturday lauded Obama's decision to shut the Guantanamo facility within a year, saying Malaysia "is happy because he has fulfilled his promise."
It was not immediately clear if Abdullah's comments indicated that Malaysian authorities might detain Mohd Farik and Mohammed Nazir under a law that allows for indefinite detention without trial of people regarded as security threats. Aides traveling with Abdullah and Foreign Ministry officials could not immediately be contacted.