Two Afghans detained at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years released, Taliban says

Two Afghan prisoners how were held by the US at Guantanamo Bay for 14 years before being transferred to Oman have been released from house arrest, a Taliban spokesman said Sunday.

Abdul Zahir Saber and Abdul Karim were freed as a result of the efforts made by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Taliban interior ministry spokesman Abdul Mateen Qani said.

Senior Taliban officials posted photographs of Saber and Karim on social media with messages of congratulations. An official welcome ceremony is being organised in the capital, Kabul, for their return on Monday, Qani said.

The two men were held in Guantanamo until 2017, when they were transferred to the Gulf kingdom of Oman. They spent the next seven years under house arrest, forbidden to travel.

The US opened the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, under President George W Bush in January 2002 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan. It was intended at the time to hold and interrogate those suspected of having links to al-Qaida or the Taliban, who had sheltered bin Laden.

However, scores of suspects from multiple countries were later sent there. The detention centre became notorious after reports emerged of detainees being humiliated and tortured, many of them remaining in custody without access to legal due process.

Saber, who was originally from the province of Logar, was arrested by American forces on May 10, 2002, Qani said. In October that year, after four months in Bagram prison just outside Kabul, Saber was transferred to Guantanamo.

“As a result of the efforts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, after many years in prison and imposed restrictions will be removed, he will return to his homeland,” said Qani.

Karim, a resident of Tani district of Khost province, in the east, was arrested in Pakistan on August 14, 2002. After a few months in prison there, he was handed over to American forces.

He was moved to Guantanamo in early 2003 and then to Oman in 2017.

The Biden administration has continued slowly repatriating the last detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay's detention facility, which has yet to finally close a full 15 years after Barack Obama issued an executive order to shut it down.