The Pentagon flatly refuted reports Saturday that it had released two men from the prison camps in Guantánamo Bay to Mauritania and said the most recent transfer took place nine months ago.
Erroneous reports circulated on the Internet throughout the day, prompting Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale to reject them on behalf of the Defense Department.
“There were 166 detainees there yesterday, last week, last month. There remain 166 detainees there today,” he said.
Military and civilian sources added on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to comment on the topic, that the Obama administration had not even filed notice with Congress of its intention to send a Guantánamo captive to the North African nation, a procedural prerequisite to a transfer.
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The last release was in September when the United States repatriated Canadian Omar Khadr to his homeland to complete his eight-year sentence for the grenade killing of an American soldier in a firefight in Afghanistan.
The wrong reports circulated against a backdrop of President Barack Obama’s renewed vow to empty the detention center where, as of Saturday, the military said medical forces were force-feeding a record 37 hunger-striking captives.
Army Lt. Col. Samuel House said from the prison that Navy medical workers counted 103 low-value detainees as hunger strikers on Saturday and were administering tube-feedings to four in the prison hospital.
“The detainees in the hospital do not currently have any life-threatening conditions,” House said by email from the remote U.S.-run prison camps in southeast Cuba.