By Frank Jack Daniel
KABUL (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday it had shut its last detention facility in Afghanistan and no longer had custody of detainees there, closing a much-criticized chapter in Washington's fight against Islamic extremism.
The U.S. Defense Department said it had recently transferred the last detainees from Bagram Airfield north of the capital, Kabul. It closed the prison there on Dec. 10, a day after a Senate report detailed abuse at a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul said the closure decision was linked to a deadline to end the detention program in Afghanistan this year, not to the Senate report.
"The Government of Afghanistan will be responsible for all detention facilities," from Jan. 1, an embassy spokesman said.
Foreign prisoners at the various sites in Bagram, often compared to Cuba's Guantanamo Bay jail, were given no trials, facing only review boards staffed by U.S. military officers. At its peak, the Bagram prison held hundreds of detainees.
A U.S. court found two adult detainees had been beaten to death at Bagram in 2002. The U.S. government said such cases of abuse were rare.
The last few weeks have seen a flurry of transfers from Bagram, including a top Pakistani Taliban militant returned to Pakistan this week. Tunisian detainee Redha al Najar was placed in Afghan custody on Tuesday, his lawyer said.
Najar, one of the longest-serving detainees of the U.S. "war on terror", was captured as a suspected bodyguard of Osama Bin Laden in May 2002.
He and another Tunisian, who lawyer Tina Foster said was also transferred to Afghan custody, received harsh treatment at a secret CIA facility that the intelligence agency described as a "dungeon" in the Senate report.
Lawyers in Pakistan for some of the detainees said they sought a full list of those who had been moved recently.
Pakistani citizen Kamil Shah, released without trial after five years in U.S. custody in Afghanistan from 2004, when he was 16, said he was beaten by U.S. personnel during his stay in Bagram.
"I was in isolation for 11 months," said Shah, who was among some 2,500 juveniles the United Nations identified as having been detained in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay by the United States since 2001.
"I wish I could fight a legal case on behalf of all innocent Pakistanis who were in prison and tortured," Shah told Reuters in Pakistan on Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Katherine Houreld; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)