US to return two Guantanamo inmates to Algeria
The United States said Friday it will return two Algerians detained at Guantanamo Bay to their homeland as part of efforts to eventually close the War on Terror military prison.
"The United States remains determined to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay," the White House said in a statement.
"In support of those efforts, today the Department of Defense certified to Congress its intent to repatriate an additional two detainees to Algeria.
"We are taking this step in consultation with the Congress, and in a responsible manner that protects our national security," it said.
President Barack Obama vowed to close the facility when he first took office in 2009, but four years on the military prison set up in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks still holds 166 men.
The vast majority of those held at Guantanamo, detained on Afghan battlefields and handed over by other countries, have never been charged or tried, and dozens have been taking part in a hunger strike in recent months.
More than half of the detainees have been cleared for release and face no charges in the United States.
Most of those cleared are Yemenis, whose release is blocked by a special moratorium imposed in the wake of the failed December 2009 plot to blow up a US passenger plane.
The plot was later traced back to Al-Qaeda's Yemeni franchise, whose members include former Guantanamo inmates.
As part of his renewed bid to shutter the prison, Obama has promised to lift the moratorium.
But his efforts have also been blocked by a congressional ban on trying or jailing Guantanamo detainees on US soil.
"We continue to call on Congress to join us in supporting these efforts (to close Guantanamo) by lifting the current restrictions that significantly limit our ability to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, even those who have been approved for transfer," the White House said.