The US transferred an alleged al Qaeda bomb maker from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia, the Defense Department announced Wednesday, part of the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to close the prison facility.
Ghassan Al Sharbi, a 48-year-old Saudi native who has been held in detention at Guantanamo Bay for 20 years, was sent to Saudi Arabia 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.
Al Sharbi attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in the US from 1999 to 2000, after which he traveled to Afghanistan and began training with al Qaeda, according to government records. In Pakistan, he then learned to manufacture remote-controlled bombs, with the intent of teaching others the necessary skills, the records said. He was captured in March 2002 and handed over to the US soon after.
His transfer to Saudi Arabia comes two weeks after the Defense Department repatriated two detainees to Pakistan, as the Biden administration tries to reduce the number of people held at Guantanamo Bay.
Abdul Rabbani and Mohammed Rabbani, who were never charged with a crime, were held as detainees in the decadeslong war against terror for allegedly operating safe houses used by al Qaeda members, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
There are currently 31 detainees remaining at Guantanamo Bay, 17 of whom are eligible for transfer, according to the Defense Department.