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US transfers 9 Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia

The United States has transferred nine Yemeni prisoners from its military base at Guantanamo Bay. President Barack Obama aims to close the controversial detention facility before he leaves office early next year.

Officials said Saturday that the Yemeni prisoners, who were among nearly 90 men at the detention facility on the tip of southeastern Cuba, have been sent to Saudi Arabia for resettlement.

"The United States is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon said at the time of the release.

The prisoner transfer is seen as part of an effort by President Barack Obama's administration to release detainees considered low-risk while transferring the remainder to the US in a bid to eventually

close the notorious prison

by the end of the year. But many in the US Congress continue to oppose plans to close the facility or move any prisoners to the US.

With the most recent release, there are still 80 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo. Another 26 men are expected to be sent to their home countries or to another country outside the US by the end of the summer. Similar arrangements were carried out with

Senegal

,

Oman

and the

Balkans

earlier this year.

Yemini nationals

All the men released this week were Yemeni nationals but could not be sent back to their homeland due to the ongoing conflict there. The prisoners are instead expected to take part in a Saudi rehabilitation program for an undisclosed length of time.

Eight of the prisoners had been cleared for release from Guantanamo since at least January 2009. The most prominent of the latest transfers was Tariq Ba Odah, a 37-year-old Yemeni whom the military had been force-feeding since he went on a hunger strike in 2007.

The other prisoners involved in the transfer were identified as: Umar Abdullah Al-Hikimi, Abdul Rahman Mohammed Saleh Nasir, Ali Yahya Mahdi Al-Raimi, Muhammed Abdullah Muhammed Al-Hamiri, Ahmed Yaslam Said Kuman, Abd al Rahman Al-Qyati, Mansour Muhammed Ali Al-Qatta, and Mashur Abdullah Muqbil Ahmed Al-Sabri.

ss/cmk (AP, Reuters)

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