Taliban asks US to keep word on Gitmo closure
The US government opened the detention center on the island on Jan. 11, 2002, four months after terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Centers in New York City and damaged the Pentagon.
American forces then arrived in Afghanistan in late 2001 to capture those responsible and to remove from power the Taliban regime, which was thought to be sheltering those who had attacked the United States.
Prisoners that American troops captured in the course of military action in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries were imprisoned at the new detention center.
On Saturday, which marked 12 years since the first detainees arrived at Guantanamo Bay prison, US human rights activists marched to the White House demanding the facility’s closure.
Up to 155 inmates continue to be held at the facility and 11 prisoners were released between August and December last year, compared to just five men in the whole of the previous three years, said Andy Worthington, investigative journalist and Guantanamo expert.
The detainees include Afghans, Arabs, Pakistanis and other nationals and 77 have reportedly been cleared for release.
In a statement attributed to Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, the movement called on the US to close the detention centre, saying 150 innocent people were still held captive at the base.
“These individuals pass their nights and days full of hardships such as hunger and thirst. US president Barack Obama had promised closing the detention centre soon after his inauguration, but failed to honour his words.”
The Taliban statement said the inmates at Guantanamo had been tortured and as a result, they opted to worsening hunger strikes, but their voices never heard.
The group called on the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and human rights activists across the globe to convince the US to close the prison and release all innocent detainees.
Two days ago, Russia also demanded that the US detention center be closed down as soon as possible after a Foreign Ministry envoy visited the last Russian prisoner still held there.
Konstantin Dolgov, a human rights envoy with the Russian Foreign Ministry, said Saturday Guantanamo was “a shameful page in the history of the United States.
Some Americans, including some members of Congress, are concerned that closing Guantánamo would endanger the safety of the American people, especially if suspected terrorists are released on American soil.
When the Taliban opened their office in Qatar, the US had agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantanamo Bay in return their agreement to hold talks with the Afghan government.
The Taliban detainees include Mullah Khair Khowa, a former interior minister, and Noorullah Noori, a former governor in northern Afghanistan.
The Taliban have been demanding the release of the former army commander Mullah Fazl Akhund.
The Taliban have been holding just one American soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, a 25-year-old sergeant captured in June 2009.
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