A man who was the alleged bodyguard of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Baden is being transferred from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to Montenegro, the U.S. Department of Defense announced.
Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab Al Rahabi, of Yemen, had been detained in the Cuban detention facility for the past 14 years without being formally charged with a crime. His release was announced Wednesday, but it’s not clear when the transfer occurred.
Montenegro’s government said al-Rahabi has applied for asylum and wasn’t being detained, NBC News reported.
In 2014, a review board found he was no longer a threat to the United States, and the board recommended his transfer. “Al Rahabi was recommended for transfer by consensus of the six departments and agencies comprising the Periodic Review Board,” the Defense Department stated.
In all, 79 detainees remain at Guantanamo.
“The United States is grateful to the Government of Montenegro for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the Defense Department said, adding that the governments of Montenegro and the United States cooperated to “ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”
Born in 1979, al-Rahabi was captured December 2001 in a group of 31 other al-Qaeda fighters who were referred to by American intelligence agents as the “Dirty 30.”
President Barack Obama has made closing down Guantanamo, which became a symbol of the excesses in America’s war on terror, one of his priorities during his first election campaign and beyond. At its peak, Guantanamo held about 780 prisoners in all.
But it appears Obama is facing more hurdles in closing down the facility.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch is opposing a White House-backed proposal that would allow Guantanamo Bay prisoners to plead guilty to terrorism charges via videoconference, Reuters reported, citing senior administration officials. Lynch intervened twice to block the proposals.
The Obama-backed plan would allow terrorism suspects to plead guilty and serve out their sentences in another prison without ever having to set foot on American soil.