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Final 3 Uighur prisoners moved from U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay

| Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, 5:57 p.m.

The United States has transferred three Uighur Muslim detainees to Slovakia from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, American officials said on Tuesday.

They were the last members of the ethnic minority from China held in the prison.

The trio had languished at Guantanamo for more than a decade since their capture in Pakistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — despite military assessments they had no ties to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

In 2008, a federal judge ruled that the Uighurs were being held unlawfully and ordered their release. Their transfer was delayed by repeated legal wrangling and attempts to find a country willing to accept them.

The Pentagon described the transfer as a “significant milestone.” Eight other prisoners have been moved from the controversial detention facility since August, including two Saudis and two Algerians who returned to their countries earlier this month. An additional 155 detainees remain.

President Obama last week reaffirmed his commitment to shutter the prison at Guantanamo, despite resistance from Republican lawmakers.

“The continued operation of the facility weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners and emboldening violent extremists,” he said.

Returning the detainees to China was not an option for the United States because of fears that they might be treated harshly. A senior military official said the Chinese have put tremendous pressure on countries in an effort to stop them from taking any Uighurs.

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