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Former Gitmo detainee's location unknown in South America, airline issues alert

  • In this frame grab taken from Barricada TV, former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab,on Feb. 11, 2015.

    In this frame grab taken from Barricada TV, former Guantanamo detainee Abu Wa'el Dhiab,on Feb. 11, 2015.

  • Abu Wa'el Dhiab, from Syria, in a June 5, 2015.
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    Abu Wa'el Dhiab, from Syria, in a June 5, 2015. .  (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

The growing mystery about the whereabouts of a former Guantanamo detainee who resettled in Uruguay has led a South American airline to issue an alert to its employees.

The Colombia-based Avianca Airlines issued an internal alert asking its employees to be on the lookout for Syrian native Abu Wa’el Dhiab, whom according to Uruguayan is visiting neighboring Brazil.

The Brazilian government, however, has said there is no record for Dhiab entering the country.

The alert, published by the Argentine web news portal Infobae, warns Avianca employees that Dhiab may be using a fake passport. The image of the alert posted by Infobae says the information came from Brazil's anti-terrorism police.

Airline spokesman Danilo Alves confirmed on Monday that the alert was issued, but did not offer any more details.

Belela Herrera, a former Uruguayan deputy foreign minister who is a human rights activist, said "this is crazy" to use the word terrorism in relation to Dhiab, who was never charged by U.S. officials and cleared for release. She also questioned media interest in his whereabouts.

She said Dhiab had told friends in Uruguay's capital that he planned to keep to himself while spending the about-to-end Muslim holy month of Ramadan in the Uruguay-Brazil border region, where there is a Muslim community and mosques.

"He has a valid identity card, issued by the Uruguayan government, that allows him to go to other countries. He is not a fugitive from justice," Herrera told the AP over the weekend.

Dhiab is one of six former Guantanamo detainees resettled in Uruguay in late 2014.

Then President Jose Mujica invited them as a humanitarian gesture, but for several of the men, their time in Uruguay has been fraught with problems. They initially complained the government wasn't helping them enough and they also refused to get jobs, drawing criticism from Uruguayans.

Dhiab, who suffers several health problems related to hunger strikes he undertook while held at the U.S. military's Guantanamo base on Cuba, has been particularly vocal about his unhappiness in Uruguay.

Several weeks ago, Uruguayan media began reporting that he had left the country. Government officials said he had traveled to Brazil and insisted he had a right to do so. They said he had not broken any law and was not being sought.

However, last week the U.S. Embassy in Uruguay said American authorities were "collaborating" with Brazilian and Uruguayan authorities to locate Dhiab.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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