National Security

Obama Releases Guantanamo Bay Terrorist To Island Paradise

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Obama administration has transferred a terrorist from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the island nation of Cabo Verde.

The Pentagon announced Shawqi Awad Balzuhair, an al-Qaida operative captured in Pakistan in 2002, would be transferred to Cabo Verde Sunday morning. The Periodic Review Board, comprised of various administration and military officials, found Balzuhair no longer posed a threat to national security on July 11 despite his terrorist ties and recommended him for release.

Balzuhairm, a 34-year-old Yemeni native, was described as “quite pleasant” by the board, although his initial profile upon capture determined he had “planned to participate in terrorist operation targeting U.S. forces in Karachi, Pakistan, and possibly inside the United States.” He was known to have served on the front lines with al-Qaida before his capture, and admitted to lying to interrogators during his imprisonment.

Cabo Verde, also known as Cape Verde, is an island archipelago off the coast of West Africa. The island chain was first colonized by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century and received its independence in 1975. Though the country has few natural resources, its beautiful vistas and convenient geographic location allow it to maintain a stable tourism revenue source.

“The United States is grateful to the Government of Cabo Verde for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” said the Pentagon in a statement announcing the release. “The United States coordinated with the Government of Cabo Verde  to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures.”

President Obama made the closure of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay naval base a key policy goal during his administration, but disagreement with Congress has thus far effectively prevented completion of this goal. Currently, there are 59 detainees remaining in Guantanamo Bay. It is unclear whether or not the Obama administration will be able to transfer them all before the president leaves office in January.

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