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Two Afghans who were detained at Guantánamo Bay for 14 years have been released, the Taliban say

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

The control tower of Camp VI detention facility is seen on April 17, 2019, in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
The control tower of Camp VI detention facility is seen on April 17, 2019, in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.Alex Brandon (AP)

Two Afghan prisoners who were held in U.S. custody for at least 14 years at the Guantánamo Bay detention center after 2002 were released from house arrest in Oman, a Taliban spokesman said Sunday. Abdul Zahir Saber and Abdul Karim were released 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 organized in the capital, Kabul, for their return on Monday, Qani said.

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

The United States opened the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, in Cuba, under President George W. Bush in January 2002 after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the invasion of Afghanistan to capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. 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 and the detention center became notorious after reports emerged of detainees being humiliated and tortured.

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 Guantánamo.

“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 Aug. 14, 2002. After a few months in prison there, he was handed over to American forces.

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

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