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Three detainees returned to Afghanistan

From Vivian Paulsen

More than 590 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
More than 590 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Three Afghans who had been in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been returned to Afghanistan, the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday.

The organization said it had observers present when the three arrived Sunday and were handed over to Afghan authorities at the air base in Bagram.

An intelligence source said the three had been taken to a hospital for checkups. They are scheduled to be handed over Tuesday to the Afghan Interior Ministry and then released to their families.

U.S. officials made no comment on the men's identities or why they had been held at the U.S. base in Cuba. But Valmay Khalilzab, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, said that any Afghans returned from Guantanamo have been found to be of no security risk and not involved with the al Qaeda terrorist network.

A senior Pentagon official said Friday the U.S. military planned to move four detainees from Guantanamo Bay to Afghanistan because authorities did not believe the men have any ties to terrorism. However, the International Committee of the Red Cross said only three Afghans arrived. The organization said it was not informed about a fourth prisoner.

The United States continues to hold about 65 detainees in Afghanistan and will fly them to Guantanamo Bay this week, freeing troops to focus on fighting the war on terrorism, the Pentagon official said.

After this weekend's prisoner transfer, 594 detainees remain at the prison camp known as Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay. Construction of new detention facilities has brought the number of cells to more than 800; more than 200 of them are empty.

The United States has been holding suspects from the war on terrorism at Guantanamo since January, when military cargo planes transferred the first batch of prisoners in Afghanistan under tight security.

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