An alleged recruiter for the al-Qaida terrorist organization has been released from the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and sent home to Kuwait, part an ongoing effort to winnow down the number of men held at the detention center and eventually close it.
Faez Mohammed al-Kandari was sent back to his homeland after a review by six U.S. government departments and agencies concluded it was no longer necessary to continue holding him after nearly 14 years at Guantanamo, the Pentagon said Friday in announcing the release.
A profile of al-Kandari released by the Pentagon last year identified al-Kandari as an al-Qaida recruiter and propagandist. It said he also "probably" served as Osama bin Laden's spiritual adviser. He denied committing any terrorist acts or having any extremist affiliations and was never charged.
His attorney, Eric Lewis, said al-Kandari would undergo a medical examination and then be placed in rehabilitation program set up by the Kuwaiti government to hold former Guantanamo prisoners re-integrate into society in the Persian Gulf nation.
"Mr. al-Kandari is delighted to be going home and reuniting with his beloved parents and family after all these years away," Lewis said. The lawyer said the former prisoner "looks forward to resuming a peaceful life and to putting Guantanamo behind him."
It was the third release this week, following the resettlement of two Yemenis in the West African nation of Ghana, and reduces the Guantanamo prisoner population to 104. The military is expected to free a total of 17 from Guantanamo this month. President Barack Obama has said he wants to reduce the number of low-level detainees and move the remainder to the U.S., a policy that is opposed by many in Congress.
Al-Kandari was the last of 12 Kuwaiti citizens held in Guantanamo since it opened in January 2002 to hold prisoners suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban. Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, a prisoner at the base who has claimed responsibility for orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack, grew up in Kuwait but is a Pakistani national. He is facing trial by military commission with four co-defendants at the base.
The government of Kuwait had supported the release of its citizens and the 12 prisoners, who unlike a majority of those held at Guantanamo, have high-profile Washington lawyers and public relations firms working to secure their freedom.
That effort suffered a setback in 2008 when one of the released prisoners carried out a suicide car bombing in Iraq targeting Iraqi security forces in the northern city of Mosul.