The United States on Saturday transferred nine Yemeni men to Saudi Arabia from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo, including an inmate who had been on a hunger strike since 2007, under a long-sought diplomatic deal between Washington and Riyadh, U.S. officials said.
The transfer, which took place just days before President Barack Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia for a summit of Gulf Arab allies, marked the latest step in his final push to close the controversial detention center at the U.S. naval base in Cuba before he leaves office in January 2017.
The Saudis agreed, after lengthy negotiations that at one point involved Obama and Saudi King Salman, to take the nine Yemenis for resettlement and put them through a government-run rehabilitation program that seeks to reintegrate militants into society, the officials said.
The group announced by the Pentagon was the largest shipped out of the Guantanamo Bay prison since Obama rolled out his plan in February aimed at shutting the facility. But he faces stiff opposition from many Republican lawmakers as well as some fellow Democrats.
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