Yemen welcome for US promise on Guantanamo

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Yemen has given a qualified welcome to US president Barack Obama’s promise to lift a ban on repatriating Yemeni prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, saying he now had to back up his words with actions.

Foreign minister Abubakr al-Qirbi yesterday said his government was building a “rehabilitation centre” to house Yemenis who have been detained at the US camp in Cuba for more than a decade.

Mr Obama promised late last month to end the ban on transferring Yemenis back home, one of the main obstacles to clearing out the detention camp.

Mr Qirbi said that Mr Obama’s announcement “brings hope to families of the detainees in Guantanamo and to the detainees themselves who for 12 years have been in prison, and have lost hope of getting out of Guantanamo. Obama now has to really put his words into actions,” he told reporters in the Saudi city of 

Of the 86 detainees who have been cleared for transfer or release from Guantanamo, 56 are from Yemen where al-Qaeda’s regional wing is active. Most of them were captured more than a decade ago following the 2001 attacks on the United States.

Repatriation of Yemeni prisoners was halted in 2010 after a man trained by militants in Yemen attempted to blow up a US-bound plane in 2009 with a bomb concealed in his underwear.

However, Mr Obama laid out conditions on 23 May for removing the moratorium including the construction of a rehabilitation centre for militants in Yemen.

Mr Qirbi said the government was getting ready to take the detainees. “We are now in preparation of the rehabilitation centre for the detainees,” he said after a meeting with Gulf foreign and finance ministers.