US Senators Warn Against Link between Guantanamo and Yemen

Three senior US senators on Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to stop transferring Guantanamo detainees to Yemen until Sanaa can guarantee that they will not return to terroristic activity.

Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Joseph Lieberman -- the first two Republicans and the third a political independent -- said that such transfers are "highly unwise and ill-considered."

Close to half of the 198 "war on terror" detainees still at the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- which Obama has vowed to close -- are from Yemen.

The senators wrote to express their "deep concern" about plans to transfer six Yemeni detainees at Guantanamo to the Yemeni government.

They said the six "have been identified as threats to the United States and its allies due to their connections to the Al Qaeda terrorist network."

"Given the security situation in Yemen and the failure of the Yemeni government to secure high-value prisoners in the past, we believe that any such transfers would be highly unwise and ill-considered," the senators wrote.

The letter cites the case of Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the suspect in the attempted Christmas Day airliner bombing, who reportedly told investigators that he received explosives training in Yemen.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for the failed strike.

The senators also said Said Ali al-Shihri, whom they described as "AQAP's longstanding deputy," was held in Guantanamo Bay but released in 2007.

"In addition, many of the other leaders of AQAP were previously held in Yemeni government custody. However, they escaped in February 2006 from a maximum-security prison in Sanaa," the senators said.

"In view of these events, the planned repatriation of six Yemeni detainees from Guantanamo Bay is especially alarming," they wrote.

In general senators request an immediate halt to the transfer of all detainees to Yemen until the American people and the Congress can be assured of the security situation in that country.

AFP has contributed to the report.

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