- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2016

The Pentagon has repatriated a Guantanamo Bay detainee to Saudi Arabia, lowering the number of prisoners held at the facility to 103 as President Obama prepares to push for further transfers during his final year in office.

Muhammad Abd Al Rahman Awn Al-Shamrani, 40, had been among the military prison’s longest-serving inmates until he was transferred on Monday this week just shy of what would have been his 14-year anniversary at Guantanamo Bay. A Saudi citizen, Al-Shamrani had been apprehended in Pakistan in December 2001 and was one of the first few detainees brought to Gitmo went the facility opened the following month.

In a statement, the Pentagon said that the periodic review board tasked with reviewing detainees determined recently that holding Al-Shamrani “does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

“The United States coordinated with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” the Pentagon said, adding that Washington is grateful for Riyadh’s “willingness to support on-going US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.”

Al-Shamrani is the fourth individual to be transferred from Guantanamo since the start of 2016, bringing the current number of detainees down to 103. The Pentagon released Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby to Ghana on Jan. 6, and two days later repatriated Faez Mohammed Ahmed Al-Kandari to his home country of Kuwait.

In classified documents published previously by WikiLeaks, the Pentagon described Al-Shamrani as an extremist recruiter who may had been employed at one time as a bodyguard for former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. As recently as February 2014, the Defense Department said “he has indicated possible plans to reengage in terrorist activity” and had been monitoring the growth of the Islamic State group “with apparent interest.” 

As is common among Gitmo detainees, Al-Shamrani was never charged nor convicted by U.S. courts.  

Pentagon spokesperson Commander Gary Ross told reporters on Monday that Al-Shamrani had arrived in Saudi Arabia earlier that day. 

The Pentagon’s announcement concerning their fourth transfer in 11 days occurred as activists planned to hold demonstrations in Washington, D.C., New York and Los Angeles on Monday to mark 14 years to the day since the detention center opened its doors to detainees.

Seven years after Mr. Obama vowed to close Guantanamo Bay during his first week in office, the White House is expected to announce the release of 13 more detainees between now and February, Pentagon officials told The Hill. The president will likely discuss his efforts further during his final State of the Union address, scheduled for Tuesday.

“He feels an obligation to the next president. He will fix this so that they don’t have to be confronted with the same set of challenges,” White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told Fox News on Sunday.

Of the remaining Gitmo prisoners, 44 have been approved for transfer if and when officials can finalize plans for their release. Three additional detainees are expected to have their cases heard by the review board later this month.

More than 240 men were held at the prison when Mr. Obama inherited the facility from George W. Bush in January 2009.

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