TERRORISM -- January 5, 2010 at 4:49 PM ET
White House Halting Gitmo Transfers to Yemen
The White House, via spokesman Robert Gibbs, announced Tuesday that it would stop the transfer of detainees from the Guantanamo Bay prison camp back to Yemen, a country recently under the spotlight in Washington.
"While we remain committed to closing the (Guantanamo) facility, a determination has been made right now -- any additional transfers to Yemen is not a good idea," Gibbs said.
President Obama has made it a top priority to close the Guantanamo facility, which was built to hold prisoners suspected of engaging in terrorism but came to embody criticism of President George W. Bush's policies for handling and interrogating terrorism suspects.
But news that a Nigerian man accused of trying to use explosives to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger jet on Christmas Day reportedly received training from terror groups in Yemen has further complicated efforts to close the facility.
According to the Washington Post, 97 of the remaining 210 Gitmo detainees are Yemeni.
The Post reported on Dec. 18 that the White House planned to release six Yemenis back to their home country soon:
Since the detention center in Guantanamo Bay opened in early 2002, 15 Yemenis who were deemed not to be a threat have been repatriated: 14 by the Bush administration and one by the Obama administration.
Republicans and an increasing number of Democrats in Congress had called on the administration to stop Guantanamo transfers to Yemen in light of the recent terror attempt attempt, according to the Associated Press.
Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, praised the decision as the right one, but said he was surprised it took the White House 11 days to make it.
"Over the last year, Yemen has become much more of a front in the war on terrorism," said King, R-N.Y. "I would hope that the administration would use this as a reason not to close Guantanamo, to realize that all they're doing is pandering to world opinion and putting the security of the United States at risk."