An alleged recruiter for the al-Qaida terrorist organization was released Friday from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in Cuba and sent home to Kuwait, as part an ongoing effort to winnow down the number of detainees held there.
Faez Mohammed Ahmed al-Kandari was flown to Kuwait 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 in announcing the release.
Last year, the Pentagon released a profile of al-Kandari that identified him as an al-Qaeda recruiter and propagandist. The profile also said that he "probably" served as Osama bin Laden's spiritual adviser. Al-Kandari denied committing any terrorist acts or having any extremist affiliations and the U.S. never charged him.
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 help former Guantanamo prisoners re-integrate into society.
"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."
Al-Kandari was the last of 12 Kuwaitis 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.
Al-Kandari's release leaves 104 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay. Earlier this week, two Yemeni detainees were resettled in Ghana. The Pentagon has planned to release a total of 17 Guantanamo detainees this month.
President 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. The White House intends to submit a plan to Congress to close the detention facility, and while the president considers it a priority, the timing for presenting a plan has not been announced.