The U.S. transferred two Guantanamo Bay detainees to Senegal on Monday, bringing the population of the military prison in Cuba down to 89.
The two detainees, Salem Abdu Salam Ghereby and Omar Khalif Mohammed Abu Baker Mahjour Umar, are Libyans. They had been held at the military prison for 14 years without being charged.
They’re the first Guantanamo prisoners to be accepted by Senegal. In a statement, the U.S. Department of Defense thanked the country for the “humanitarian gesture.”
Senegal becomes the second West African country to take in Gitmo detainees, after Ghana. A total of 28 countries have now accepted former detainees, the Miami Herald reports.
The transfer of the two Libyans is the start of a planned transfer of about a dozen detainees over the next week or so, Reuters reports.
Each detainee taken out of Guantanamo moves President Obama a step closer to his stated goal of closing the prison — a goal opposed by Republicans in Congress.
Of the 89 remaining detainees, 35 have been cleared for transfer.
NPR’s David Welna reported last week that some at the Pentagon are hopeful they’ll be able to transfer those detainees out over the course of the next few months, though others in the administration are concerned that the pace is too slow.
A total of 16 detainees were transferred out of Guantanamo in January, including 14 in the first two weeks of the year and two a week later. (One additional prisoner was slated for transfer, but refused to go.) There were no transfers in February or March.
And, David says, “there may soon be even more detainees eligible for transfer. A parole-board-type panel representing six federal agencies, known as the Periodic Review Board, has lately [sped] up hearings which had been moving at a sleepy pace. And most of the detainees who’ve gone before it have been deemed eligible for release.”