The US transferred an alleged al-Qaeda associate from Guantanamo Bay to Algeria, the Defense Department announced Thursday, part of the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to close the prison facility.
Said bin Brahim bin Umran Bakush, a 72-year-old Algerian native who has been held in detention in Guantanamo Bay for 20 years, was sent to Algeria after a review board determined he no longer needed to be held to protect against “a continuing significant threat to the national security of the United States,” the Defense Department said. The transfer included a set of security measures, including monitoring, travel restrictions and continued information sharing.
The Biden administration has made it a priority to reduce the number of detainees at Guantanamo Bay as part of the ongoing effort to close the prison facility.
Last month, the US transferred an alleged al-Qaeda bombmaker to his native Saudi Arabia after more than 20 years of detention. Two weeks earlier, the US transferred two brothers accused of running al-Qaeda safehouses to Pakistan.
The latest transfer brings the number of detainees at Guantanamo Bay down to 30, 16 of whom are eligible for transfer, according to the Defense Department.
Umran Bakush was a trusted associate of al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaydah and al-Qaeda trainer Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, according to government records. In the late-90s, Umban Bakush attended basic and advanced training in Afghanistan, later serving as an instructor at an extremist camp, the records said.
He was captured at a safehouse in March 2002, where members were training for future attacks, including US interests, records said. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay in June 2002.
But investigators were never able to learn more about what motivated Umran Bakush to allegedly join al-Qaeda and participate in planning terrorist attacks, records said, and he never admitted to involvement in extremist activities. He has consistently denied involvement in terrorist activities and shown little interest or sympathy for al-Qaeda or radical Islamic views, according to government records. He has also not shown a strong interest in being released from prison, but he feared returning to Algeria because he worried authorities there would arrest him.