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2/27/04 - RUMSFELD ON GUANTANAMO DETAINEES - 2004-02-27


A one-time detainee at the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was recently released. Fifteen-year-old Muhammed Ismail Agha once fought in Afghanistan for the Taleban. He is now back home in Pakistan. In describing his treatment at Guantanamo, Muhammed said the U.S. “gave me a good time in Cuba. They were very nice to me, giving me English lessons.”

More than six-hundred other enemy combatants are still being detained. Twenty-five percent are from Saudi Arabia. Many others are Afghans and Pakistanis. Most were seized during the U.S.-led efforts to topple the Taleban regime and al-Qaida in Afghanistan.

The detainees include not only rank-and-file fighters like Muhammed. They are also “senior al-Qaida and Taleban operatives,” says U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, “some who may have been linked to past and potential attacks against the United States, and others who continue to express commitments to kill Americans if released”:

“Very simply, the reason for their detention is that they’re dangerous. Were they not detained, they would return to fight and continue to kill innocent men, women, and children.”

The detainees at Guantanamo Bay have shed light on how the al-Qaida terrorist network operates. They have provided information on al-Qaida front companies, bank accounts, weapons, and tactics. But the U.S., says Mr. Rumsfeld, “has no desire to hold enemy combatants any longer than is absolutely necessary”:

“As they continue to sort through detainees in a systematic manner, officials of the United States government will make determinations based upon the best information that they can establish. Some of these detainees will be tried before military commissions for serious crimes as has been accepted practice in previous wars. Some will be transferred back to their home countries if those countries are willing to take responsibility for them.”

Detainees at Guantanamo like Muhammed Ismail Agha, who no longer pose a threat, will be released.

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