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U.S. frees 3 teens at Guantanamo base

The teens were held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a year.
The teens were held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for more than a year.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three teenagers who have been held with other prisoners at a U.S. military detention camp in Cuba have been released to their home country, the U.S. Defense Department said Thursday.

The teenagers were detained for more than a year at the U.S. naval complex at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Defense Department didn't identify the detainees' country.

They were part of hundreds rounded up when the U.S. military ousted Afghanistan's Taliban regime for providing haven to al Qaeda, the terrorist network blamed for the September 11, 2001, attacks. Those held are suspected terrorists or supporters of the Taliban.

All three youths were under the age of 16, the Defense Department said. Two were captured during raids on Taliban camps and the other while trying to get weapons to fight U.S. forces, the department said.

In a written statement, the Pentagon said that "the juvenile detainees no longer posed a threat to our nation, that they have no further intelligence value and that they are not going to be tried by the U.S. government for any crimes."

Last year human rights groups became alarmed about the holding of underage prisoners at Guantanamo, expressing concern about their welfare and treatment among other detainees.

Defense Department officials have provided few details about the conditions under which the teenagers were held.

Thursday's statement said the teens had been housed in a separate detention facility and were not restricted in the same manner as adults. They also were provided educational opportunities in their native language and were allowed recreational activity, the military said.

The Pentagon did not provide the identities or locations of where the teens are returning, citing concerns that al Qaeda or Taliban sympathizers might threaten them.

The statement said nongovernment organizations will help the youths re-integrate into civilian society.

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