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US transfers six Guantanamo Bay prisoners to Oman, amid rush to close facility

Six men of Yemeni origin have arrived in Oman after more than a decade in detention at Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration says it is "working feverishly" to close the controversial prison before he leaves office.

Six men held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have been transferred to Oman after spending nearly 13 years in the US military prison.

The six men - all of Yemeni origin - arrived in Oman on Saturday, marking the second transfer this year.

They had been identified as low-risk and cleared for transfer years ago, but were forced to wait for the Pentagon's approval to move out of the prison.

"The United States is grateful to the government of Oman for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the US Department of Defense (DOD) said in a statement.

"The United States coordinated with the government of Oman to ensure these transfers took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures," the DOD said.

The controversial prison opened under former President George W. Bush following the September 11, 2001, attacks housed alleged terrorist suspects. However, human rights organizations have slammed the US for creating a "legal black hole" since detainees were typically held without charge, many for more than a decade.

The move comes as President Barack Obama attempts to meet his campaign promise of closing the detention facility before his second term ends, leaving him a year and a half to fulfill his goal.

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A heavily redacted CIA torture report released in 2014 illustrated the inhumane conditions detainees were forced to endure at the Guantanamo detention facility

'Working feverishly'

Last week, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he was working with the White House on a proposal for Congress to close the prison.

"We are working feverishly to transfer each of the 51 detainees currently approved for transfer," said Ian Moss, a State Department official working on detainee transfers.

"It is not in our national security interest to continue to detain individuals if we as a government have determined that they can be transferred from Guantanamo responsibly," Moss added.

The transfers this year have brought the Guantanamo population down to 116, more than half of the 242 at the prison when Obama was sworn in.

However, Congress has impeded Obama's ambitions of closing the detention facility by forcing him to resort to third countries willing to host detainees.

More than fifty detainees have already been approved for transfer but must wait, pending approval from the Pentagon and Carter.

ls/jr (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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