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US sees 2014 progress in freeing Guantanamo inmates

Moves to free detainees from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay are gathering pace as the administration works to close the notorious jail, a top US official said.

WASHINGTON: Moves to free detainees from the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay are gathering pace as the administration works to close the notorious jail, a top US official said on Thursday.

"There are a significant number of transfers in the pipeline at various stages and I think you're going to be seeing substantial progress this year," the senior administration official said.

The official refused to be drawn on any specific figures amid a furore over the release of five Taliban prisoners in exchange for a captured US soldier in Afghanistan.

Of the 149 prisoners still remaining in the jail in southern Cuba since the weekend releases, 78 have been approved to be freed without charge. The group, which includes 58 Yemenis and four Afghans, are awaiting transfer out of the jail.

US administration officials are actively working to find countries which will take them, as many cannot be sent home because of fears to US security or because they face persecution at home.

"We're very pleased with the progress that we're making on foreign transfers," the official said, asking not to be named.

But he would not go into the details of any discussions with other countries in order to allow the negotiations to proceed.

"Of the 71 who are not approved for transfer, there are 10 who are actually facing charges in the military commission system," the official said. These include the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, and his cohorts.

The other 61 prisoners have been divided into two groups -- some 38 are in continued detention and eligible to have their cases reviewed, while 23 have been referred to prosecution.

US President Barack Obama has repeatedly vowed to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, which opened in January 2002 under the administration of then president George W. Bush.

But his pledge has been hampered by Congress's refusal to allow any of the inmates to be sent to US prisons for trial within the federal courts.

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