Ibrahim Osman, one of two Sudanese detainees released from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, smiles after disembarking from an US Air Force plane at Khartoum Airport early yesterday.
KHARTOUM: The last Sudanese prisoners to be released from US detention at Guantanamo Bay arrived home yesterday, as US President Barack Obama tries to speed up repatriations and close the controversial facility.
US military personnel helped Mohammed Noor Uthman and Ibrahim Othman Ibrahim Idris onto the exit stairway of a US Air Force transport plane after it landed in Khartoum.
“I want to thank everyone for supporting me,” a grey-bearded, bespectacled Idris said softly at a later press conference.
The United States announced on Wednesday that it had transferred the two men from the prison at a US naval base on the southeastern tip of Cuba where they had been detained for more than 11 years.
Uthman, 51, and Idris, 52, were both considered by the US military to be members of Al Qaeda.
The transfers came as Obama accelerates repatriations of Guantanamo detainees to meet his campaign promise of closing the prison.
His predecessor George W Bush opened the facility after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US to house terrorism suspects captured around the world.
Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Abubakr Elsiddig could not immediately say whether any restrictions would be placed on Uthman and Idris in their home country.
A US defence official confirmed they were the last Sudanese held at Guantanamo, where 158 prisoners remain.
Idris was seen by the Pentagon as a veteran member of the terrorist network who swore loyalty to its now slain leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s.
He was among the first detainees to arrive at Guantanamo Bay, on January 11, 2002.
Uthman was sent there in May that year.
In exchange for a guilty plea to terrorism offences in February 2011, part of Uthman’s 14-year sentence was suspended and he completed his term on
Idris, who had been cleared for transfer since 2009 by an interagency task force, was released following an October order from the US District Court in Washington.
“As directed by the president’s January 22, 2009, executive order, the task force conducted a comprehensive review of Idris’s case, which examined a number of factors, including security issues,” Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale said.
“The United States coordinated with the government of Sudan regarding appropriate security measures and to ensure that these transfers are consistent with our humane treatment policy,” Breasseale said.
A Sudanese foreign ministry official said that the releases came after “intensive communication” between Foreign Minister Ali Karti and US Secretary of State John Kerry.