Nine prisoners have been released from Guantanamo and sent to Saudi Arabia, dropping the inmate population at the infamous prison to 80, Reuters reports. The release was announced Saturday by the Pentagon. All nine prisoners were Yemeni men captured during the war in Afghanistan, according the New York Times. They had been held at Guantanamo for approximately 14 years. The Guardian reports none of the men had ever been charged with a crime, and eight of the nine had been cleared for release from the prison since at least 2010. An attorney for one of the released men says his client is "ecstatic." “He is anxious to get on with living a peaceful life," the attorney tells the Times.
The release was the largest since Obama announced in February his most recent plans to close Guantanamo. The holdup in releasing the nine "low-level" inmates was partly due to Saudi Arabia's unwillingness to accept Yemenis. The US government didn't want to send the men to Yemen due to unrest and Al Qaeda activity there. A deal with Saudi Arabia, which has a semi-successful program for rehabilitating former Islamic militants, was secured in February. One of the released prisoners is Tariq Ba Odah, who the military has been force-feeding every day since he started a hunger strike in 2007. Most of the 80 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo, which has been condemned by the UN and once boasted an inmate population of nearly 700, have been there for a decade without charges. (Read more Guantanamo Bay stories.)