The rising sun silhouettes an out-of-use guard tower, fence and concertina wire at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 19, 2016.

The rising sun silhouettes an out-of-use guard tower, fence and concertina wire at Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on April 19, 2016. (Corey Dickstein/Stars and Stripes)

The U.S. has transferred one of Osama Bin Laden’s former bodyguards from its Gauntanamo Bay detention facility to the government of Montenegro, the Department of Justice said Wednesday.

The transfer of Abdel Malik Ahmed Abdel Wahab Al Rahabi leaves 79 detainees at Guantanamo, the Defense Department said.

Rahabi, from Yemen, was captured in Pakistan in late 2001 after fighting U.S. troops in the Tora Bora mountains.

In March 2014, a review board declined to release him on the basis that he had “significant ties” to al-Qaida, was once selected for a hijacking plot and was related to another “possible extremist.” However, by December that year the board did a U-turn.

It ruled that it was no longer necessary to detain Al Rahabi under the law of war to protect against a continuing significant threat to the U.S., the department said in a statement.

The board, made up of representatives from the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State; the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, recommended Al Rahabi’s transfer, the statement said.

U.S. officials coordinated with Montenegro to ensure the transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures, the statement said.

Other Yemeni detainees released from Guantanamo have been sent to third countries because of the war raging in their homeland, a hotbed of Islamic extremism.

“The United States is grateful to the government of Montenegro for its humanitarian gesture and willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility,” the DoD statement said.

At one point, Guantanamo held nearly 800 detainees, but President Barack Obama has made closing the facility a top priority.

“For many years, it has been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security — it undermines it,” Obama said in February. “It’s counterproductive to our fight against terrorists, who use it as propaganda in their efforts to recruit. It drains military resources, with nearly $450 million spent last year alone to keep it running and more than $200 million in additional costs needed to keep it open going forward. Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism.” Twitter: @SethRobson1

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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