US denies Mauritania got 2 Guantanamo prisoners

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (AP) — The United States Department of Defense denied claims by a prisoner’s rights group in Mauritania, which announced on Saturday that the U.S. had returned three prisoners to the African country, including two men who had been held at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

No detainees have been transferred from Guantanamo since October last year, said Army Lt. Col. Joseph Todd Breasseale, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman.

The report of the transfer of the two Guantanamo detainees was also denied by Nancy Hollander, a lawyer for one of the men. Hollander said that Mohamedou Ould Slahi is still in Guantanamo and reports of his release are untrue. “It is totally false,” Hollander said in a phone interview from Seattle. “It just didn’t happen.”

Hollander, who has represented Slahi since 2005, last visited him at the prison on the U.S. base in Cuba in May. She said she has spoken with his Mauritanian lawyer and he confirmed that Slahi has not been released. “I don’t know why or how this rumor got started,” she said.

The report that the Guantanamo detainees were transferred to Mauritania came from Hamoud Ould Nabagha, chairman of the Support Committee for Guantanamo Prisoners. He said the prisoners include Mohamedou Ould Slahi and Ahmed Ould Abdel Aziz, both of whom were held at Guantanamo. The third is El Haj Ould Cheikh El Houssein Youness who was held at the U.S. military base at the Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, said Nabagha.

Nabagha said the detainees were turned over to Mauritanian police who may interview them before their release.

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz recently claimed that the Guantanamo detainees would be released soon.

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Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed to this report from Miami.

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