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Wealthy Gitmo Detainee With Family Ties To Bin Laden RELEASED To Saudi Arabia

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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Abdul Shalabi, a Guantanamo detainee and former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, was just released to Saudi Arabia, bringing the total number of detainees in the prison down to 114.

This is the second transfer in under a week. Last week, the Department of Defense announced the release of Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri to Morocco.

“The United States is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures,” the Defense Department said in a statement.

A detainee assessment from 2008 found that 39-year-old Shalabi, who comes from a wealthy and educated family, not only served as bin Laden’s bodyguard, but also has familial ties to the bin Laden family. Shalabi belonged to al-Qaida and was part of an aborted component of the September 11 attacks. But Shalabi consistently denied involvement and claimed to be a religious teacher.

On December 15, 2001, Pakistani authorities captured Shalabi along with 31 other al-Qaida fighters, who were fleeing from Tora Bora, Osama bin Laden’s mountain complex.

Near the end of December, authorities transferred Shalabi over to U.S. custody, who then was sent to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where he stayed for 13 years.

At the time, the assessment determined Shalabi was too dangerous to release, but the board changed its mind in June, clearing him for release.

“The board also considered the detainee’s well-established family, their willingness and ability to support him upon his return, and their prior success in assisting with the rehabilitation and reintegration of a former Guantánamo detainee,” the review panel said.

There are 52 detainees left who have been cleared for release. The rest require further detention. President Barack Obama still wants to close the prison before his term is up, and so the Pentagon has investigated domestic facilities to hold detainees in the long-term if the administration manages to shutter Gitmo.

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