The United States government announced on Sunday that it transferred six of its Guantanamo Bay detainees held for more than 12 years to the South American country of Uruguay to be resettled as refugees.
All of the six men were detained as alleged militants with al-Qaeda ties, but were never charged with any crimes.
A statement from the Pentagon on Sunday identified the men as one Palestinian, one Tunisian and four Syrians.
The six are the first prisoners from Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay to be sent to a country in South America.
This release lowers the total still being held in Cuba at the U.S. base to just 136. The number of prisoners has not been that low since the camp opened in January of 2002.
The government of the U.S. has said the men do not pose any threat, but are not allowed to go back to their countries of origin.
An envoy of the State Department said the U.S. was grateful to the country of Uruguay and its president for the important humanitarian gesture.
Uruguay agreed to accept the six men this past January, but Pentagon officials did not notify the Congress until July of its intent to have the men transferred to Uruguay.
One report says that the White House administration was frustrated that the transfer had taken so long placing the blame on the outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel for not giving his approval of the mover earlier.
The transfer became delayed even further due to the October election for the presidency in Uruguay and the runoff in late November, when the pre-approved transfer became a presidential campaign issue.
Uruguay reiterated on Friday its willingness to accept the six detainees via a letter from President Jose Mujica to President Obama.
Obama pledged he would have the prison closed upon entering office but Congress blocked him. Congress banned the prisoners from being sent to the U.S. for any reason including for trial, and placed a number of restrictions on them being sent abroad.
The overseas restrictions have been eased and the United State has released to date 19 prisoners in 2014. More should be released by the end of this year.