National Security

US Frees Osama Bin Laden Bodyguard from Guantanamo Bay

bin Laden
The entrance to Camp 5 and Camp 6 at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay detention center / AP

The Defense Department said Tuesday that Abdul Shalabi, believed to have once served as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, has been transferred from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to Saudi Arabia.

According to CNN, the latest transfer means that there are 114 remaining prisoners in the detention facility at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba, 64 of whom have been labeled too dangerous for release.

Shalabi’s release is the second in a matter of days. Last week, the U.S. sent a Moroccan prisoner, Younis Abdurrahman Chekkouri, who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay for more than 13 years back to Morocco.

Shalabi was one of the first prisoners brought to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after having been captured by Pakistani forces in 2001. The U.S. said that he had worked as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden and had also associated with senior al Qaeda officials, though was never charged with a crime. Shalabi protested his imprisonment with a hunger strike.

A government review board concluded that it was unnecessary to continue to imprison Shalabi at the military base but said in a statement that he "probably continues to sympathize with extremists."

The Defense Department thanked the government of Saudi Arabia for accepting the prisoner in a statement Tuesday.

"The United States is grateful to the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its willingness to support ongoing U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," the Pentagon said. "The United States coordinated with the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to ensure this transfer took place consistent with appropriate security and humane treatment measures."

President Obama has been pushing to close the military prison since he assumed office in 2009. In July, the administration claimed that it had reached the final stages in drafting a plan to shutter Guantanamo Bay.