An al Qaeda member has been released from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay and transferred back to his home country of Saudi Arabia, the U.S. Defense Department announced Saturday. Muhammed Murdi Issa Al-Zahrani had been held at the detention facility within the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba for 12 years. He is the seventh detainee to be released in the past three weeks, the Pentagon.
The facility’s Periodic Review Board determined Oct. 3 that “continued law of war detention of Al-Zahrani does not remain necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.” The board recommended the Saudi man for transfer and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed Congress about it, the Pentagon said.
Al-Zahrani is reportedly a self-admitted member of al Qaeda who swore an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden and is associated with several high-ranking members of the terrorist group. The Saudi man was initially categorized as “a high risk, as he is likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests, and allies,” according to the Pentagon detainee assessment hosted by the New York Times. The document noted Al-Zahrani’s “personal responsibility to participate in jihad.” The memorandum also said the al Qaeda member carried out deadly missions against the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan in 2001.
Al-Zahrani is the 13th prisoner to be transferred out of Guantanamo Bay this year, the Pentagon said. His transfer follows the announcement Thursday that two Guantanamo detainees were released to Slovakia and three to Georgia. There are still 142 prisoners at the detention facility. “This strikes a responsible balance and reflects the careful deliberation the Secretary of Defense brings to the transfer process, and follows a rigorous process in the interagency to review several items including security review prior to any transfer,” said Paul Lewis, special envoy for Guantanamo Detention Closure, said in a statement.
Congressional Republicans have called for an end to these transfers, after Hagel acknowledged that some former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield to fight against the U.S. in Iraq and Syria, as the Blaze reported. “What the Obama administration is doing is dangerous and, frankly, reckless,” Buck McKeon, the retiring chairman of the House of Representatives armed services committee, said Thursday, according to the Guardian.