- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2004

Three teenage boys who had been accused of supporting the Taliban and were held for more than a year at the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists have been released, the Pentagon said yesterday.

The boys, believed to be ages 13 to 15, were held at a makeshift prison called the “Iguana House” outside the massive detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds some 660 adult suspects in the U.S.-led war on terror.

A Defense Department statement said U.S. officials determined the boys “no longer posed a threat to our nation, that they have no further intelligence value and that they are not going to be tried by the U.S. government for any crimes.”

During their stay at Guantanamo, the boys were shielded from “the influences of the older detainees,” the Pentagon said, adding that the boys were given the opportunity to learn math, as well as reading and writing in their native language.

Citing concerns that al Qaeda or Taliban sympathizers might threaten the safety of the juveniles, the Pentagon did not reveal the boys’ names or any specific details regarding their release.

“With the assistance of nongovernment organizations, the juveniles will be resettled in their home country,” the Pentagon said. One U.S. official told Reuters news agency that the boys were returned to Afghanistan.

To date, the United States has released 87 prisoners from Guantanamo, although to which countries and under what legal circumstances they were released is classified.

In addition to the 87 releases, the Pentagon said “four other detainees have been transferred to the Saudi Arabian government for continued detention.”

Military officials have told reporters that all of the prisoners held at Guantanamo were arrested in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon yesterday said two of the teenage boys were “captured during U.S. and allied-forces raids on Taliban camps” and that one “was captured while trying to obtain weapons to fight American forces.”

Military officials declined to comment on an earlier report that one of the boys had killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan.

In November, one official at Guantanamo said the boy had pretended he was dead or asleep when U.S. forces encountered him during a mop-up operation. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that when the boy was discovered, he quickly turned and shot the soldier in the temple.

However, that official said he did not know when or where in Afghanistan the incident had occurred and stressed that the account may have been hearsay.

Asked yesterday whether the story could be corroborated, a Pentagon spokeswoman said that “as a matter of policy, for security reasons we don’t talk about specific detainees.”

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