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Palau to take Uighur detainees from Gitmo

  • Story Highlights
  • Country's ambassador to U.S. says agreement includes some aid to Palau
  • Uighurs are native Chinese Muslims
  • Palau agrees to take 17 Uighurs from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
  • U.S. wouldn't send Uighur detainees to China due to torture concerns
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pacific island nation of Palau has agreed to take in 17 Chinese Muslims held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the country's ambassador to the United States said Wednesday.

The Obama administration has found a home for 17 Uighur detainees housed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The map shows the Pacific island nation of Palau in relation to China.

Details of the transfer are still being worked out, Ambassador Hersey Kyota told CNN.

But Kyota said his country, a former U.S. Pacific trust territory, has agreed to take in the ethnic Uighur detainees "for humanitarian reasons" and because of the "special relationship" between Palau and the United States.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly would not comment on the announcement, telling reporters, "We're still involved in ongoing discussions."

The agreement includes some U.S. aid for Palau, Kyota said, but he said those details remained to be worked out as well.

The country, with a population of about 20,000, is about 1,000 miles southeast of Manila, Philippines, and about 4,600 miles west of Hawaii.

Palau has received nearly $900 million in U.S. aid since independence in 1994, according to congressional auditors, and depends on Washington for defense.

The "Compact of Free Association" between Palau and the United States is up for review, but Kelly said any additional aid offer "is not linked to any other discussions we may be having with the government of Palau."

The Uighurs were accused of receiving weapons and military training in Afghanistan.

Some of the prisoners have been cleared for release from the Guantanamo Bay facility since 2003, but the United States would not send them back to China out of concern that Chinese authorities would torture them.

A federal court ordered the men released, but an appeals court halted that order.


China has said no returned Uighurs would be tortured, but it has warned other countries against taking the men.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu told reporters in February that the men "must be handed over to China and brought to justice."

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