WASHINGTON – Fourteen Saudi Arabians were released on Saturday from the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and transferred to their home country, the Pentagon said.
One was released because U.S. officials determined the detainee was no longer an enemy combatant. The other Saudis were released after an administrative review process determined they could be transferred.
The releases bring to 310 the number of detainees who have departed Guantanamo to other governments, including Albania, Afghanistan, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Kuwait, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden and Uganda.
About 450 detainees remain at Guantanamo, including 120 who are considered eligible for transfer or release. Decisions in those cases depend on discussions between the United States and other nations.
The U.S. began using the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in eastern Cuba in January 2002 to hold people suspected of links to Al Qaeda or the Taliban.
Defense officials said they expect the transfer or releases to continue. In mid-May, a group of 15 Saudis were released and transferred to their home.
The detention of Saudis at Guantanamo has been an irritant in the otherwise improving relationship between the Bush administration and the Saudi kingdom. Those relations have helped U.S. officials track and stop terrorism since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Most of the 19 hijackers were Saudi.
Some 759 people have been held over the years at Guantanamo, according to Defense Department documents released to The Associated Press in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Of those, 136 have been Saudis, making them the second largest contingent of Guantanamo prisoners, behind only the 218 Afghans.