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26 Prisoners Freed From Guantanamo

March 16, 2004|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Monday it had released 23 Afghan and three Pakistani citizens from the U.S. Navy prison for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, leaving about 610 still in detention.

They were flown back to Afghanistan and Pakistan aboard U.S. aircraft, officials said.

In a brief statement, the Pentagon did not say specifically why the 26 were let go but said each case is reviewed separately to determine whether a prisoner is of further intelligence value to the United States and whether he is believed to pose a threat to the country.

"The circumstances in which detainees are apprehended can be ambiguous, and many of them are highly skilled in concealing the truth," the statement said. "The process of evaluation and detention is not free of risk -- at least one [freed] detainee has gone back to the fight."

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed last week that one released terrorism suspect had rejoined the fight against the U.S., but other Pentagon officials refused to elaborate.

Terms of Monday's prisoner release were not disclosed, but it appeared it would be up to the prisoners' governments to decide what to do with them.

Last week the U.S. released five British prisoners from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, and about 100 have been let go or transferred to other governments in recent months. The five released to the British government were later set free by London police.

Two weeks ago, seven Russians held in Cuba were turned over to the Russian government.

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