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Biden admin releases terrorist-linked Gitmo detainee after 20 years

Detainees sit in a holding area while being guarded by military police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing, on January 11, 2002. (Shane T.McCoy/ U.S. Navy/MCT)
April 04, 2022

On Saturday, President Joe Biden’s administration announced the release of Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufiyan Barhoumi, who had been kept for nearly 20 years at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba. He was suspected of partaking in a bomb plot against the U.S.

In a press statement, the U.S. Department of Defense said it had returned Barhoumi to Algeria after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin notified Congress on Feb. 4 of his intent to release the detainee. Barhoumi’s transfer finally went through on Saturday, after Algeria met the requirements for his responsible transfer.

An Aug. 9, 2016 Periodic Review Board (PRB) determined that it was no longer necessary to detain Barhoumi under the law of war detention “to protect against a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States.” The PRB determined Barhoumi should be repatriated to his native Algeria with assurances of security and human treatment.

Barhoumi was originally detained in 2002 after being captured in Pakistan with a top Al-Qaeda member, BBC reported. He was accused of taking part in a plot to set off a bomb in the U.S.

“The United States appreciates the willingness of Algeria, and other partners to support ongoing U.S. efforts toward a deliberate and thorough process focused on responsibly reducing the detainee population and ultimately closing of the Guantanamo Bay facility,” the DoD said of Barhoumi’s release.

President Joe Biden’s administration has been gradually releasing detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Last month, the administration announced the release of Mohammad Mani Ahmad al-Qahtani, who had been accused of involvement of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and has been referred to as the “20th hijacker.” Al-Qahtani was also released and repatriated to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for mental health treatment after a PRB determined he was no longer a national security threat.

In January, the Biden administration approved the release of five more detainees, though they won’t be released until the administration has time to find nations that will take them in and assure their safe and responsible transer. Those detainees included the Moath al-Alwi, Zuhail al-Sharabi and Omar al-Rammah from Yemen, and Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu from Kenya. All five men had never been charged with war crimes.

The PRB process was established on March 7, 2011 by then-President Barack Obama, under Executive Order 13567.

To date, 37 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay. 18 detainees are eligible for transfers, 7 more are eligible for a PRB. 10 detainees are involved in the military commissions process, which determines whether a detainee can be tried in a military court. Two detainees have been convicted in military commissions.