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Oman to take 10 Guantanamo Bay inmates at Obama's request

Oman has accepted 10 inmates from the US prison at Guantanamo Bay ahead of President Barack Obama leaving office.

There was no immediate word from the US Defence Department about the transfer.

Oman's Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the state-run Oman News Agency that it had accepted the prisoners at Mr Obama's request. It did not name the prisoners.

The sultanate of Oman, on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, previously accepted 10 Guantanamo prisoners from Yemen in January 2016. Oman also took another six in June 2015.

Meanwhile, Oman's neighbour, Saudi Arabia, took four prisoners on January 5 and the United Arab Emirates took 15 prisoners in the largest-single transfer during Mr Obama's administration on August 15.

Oman, ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said since 1970, has served as an interlocutor between the West and Iran. It has also negotiated a number of prisoner releases in recent years for Western countries.

Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, remains in the grips of a civil war and a Saudi-led military offensive against the rebels - making returning Guantanamo inmates there impossible.

Days earlier, authorities said 19 of the remaining 55 prisoners at the US military base in Cuba were cleared for release and could be freed in the final days of Mr Obama's presidency.

It was part of an effort by Mr Obama to shrink the prison since he could not close it.

US President-elect Donald Trump said during his campaign that he not only wants to keep Guantanamo open but "load it up with some bad dudes".

The US began using its military base on south-east Cuba's isolated, rocky coast to hold prisoners captured during the Afghanistan invasion, bringing the first planeload on January 11 2002, and reaching a peak 18 months later of nearly 680.

There were 242 prisoners when Mr Obama took office in 2009, pledging to close what became a source of international criticism over the mistreatment of detainees and the notion of holding people indefinitely, most without charge.

Mr Obama was unable to close Guantanamo because of Congressional opposition to holding any of the men in the United States. That ultimately became a ban on transferring them to US soil for any reason, including trial, making the failure to close the detention centre part of his legacy.

The majority of Guantanamo prisoners released have been sent to Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

AP

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