- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Omar Mohammed Khalif Abu Bakr, a Libyan national who has been held at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for 13 years, has been cleared for release.

A newly published document put out by the Pentagon reveals that officials have determined that detaining Khalif “is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

In a four-paragraph, unclassified summary dated Aug. 20, the Periodic Review Board said the prisoner’s deteriorating health and “constructive role in the detention environment” factored in the decision to order his release.

“While the board acknowledges the detainee’s past terrorist-related activities and connections, it found that the risk the detainee presents can be adequately mitigated,” the board wrote.

President Obama has promised to close the Guantanamo facility in Cuba before leaving office, and the Periodic Review Board’s recent decision raises the number of detainees cleared for release to 53 — nearly half of the 116 currently being held.

Khalid was born in 1972, according to Pentagon records, and was recruited into the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group in his early 20s. He then traveled to Sudan, where he’s believed to have linked up with former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Pakistani officials arrested him during the raid of a suspected al-Qaeda safehouse in 2002, and he was subsequently transferred into U.S. custody and brought to facilities in Bagram and Kandahar before ending up at Gitmo that August.

Detainee assessments published by WikiLeaks suggest the Pentagon considered Khalid to be a “high risk” prisoner as of 2008, and was likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies if released. According to the review board’s latest findings, however, Khalid has since assisted American efforts by “mediating concerns raised between other detainees and guard staff” and has illustrated an intent to “move forward in a positive manner.”

Mr. Khalid is missing most of his right leg and is blind in his left eye, his attorney Ramzi Kassem told the Miami Herald. The review group said the prisoner should be transferred to an Arab-speaking country where his “physical and mental health needs” can be addressed, but his lawyer told the Herald he was unaware of any “severe mental health issues.”

“He is actually quite cogent and articulate and has played a recognized mediating role between prisoners and the guard force over the years,” Mr. Kassem told the paper.

An unnamed military official who testified before the review board in June on the detainee’s behalf described the prisoner as “peaceful, compliant, and also has quite a sense of humor.” In a profile of Khalid put out by the Pentagon four months earlier, however, the military wrote “There are no indications that he is in direct contact with any terrorists outside Guantanamo, but he has attempted to relay greetings to several Libyan former detainees, including one who has emerged as an extremist leader and would be well-positioned to facilitate [Khalid’s] reengagement should he wish to rejoin the fight.”

Mr. Kassem, his attorney, told the Miami Herald that his client “is open to any suitable resettlement and his family will do its best to support him wherever he ends up.”

A report published earlier this month by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said that Mr. Obama has approved the release of 121 detainees since taking office in 2009, six of whom have been confirmed by the government as having returned to their extremist roots.

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