The Obama administration sent three ethnic Uighur Muslim captives from Guantánamo to Slovakia, the Defense Department said Tuesday, ending one of the saddest and longest-running chapters of unlawful detention at the U.S. prison camps in Cuba.
Yusef Abbas, 38, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper, 39, and Saidullah Khalik, 36, left the remote U.S. Navy base in a secret operation on Monday, according to U.S. government sources. They had spent about a dozen years in U.S. military custody.
Their transfer reduced the prison camp population to 155 captives, 11 fewer than when the year started. It was the government’s latest incremental step toward reaching President Barack Obama’s mandate to close the detention center.
At the Pentagon, Rear Adm. John Kirby, a spokesman, called the transfer and resettlement “a significant milestone in our effort to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay.” He credited the work of Obama’s two special envoys for prison camps closure —Paul Lewis at the Defense Department and Clifford Sloan at the Department of State