ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Two former Guantanamo prisoners thanked Ghana for allowing them to settle in the country following their release, as the president of the West African nation sought to quell fears that the men posed any danger.
The two Yemenis, Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih Al-Dhuby, were held at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as enemy combatants, accused of training with al-Qaida and fighting with the Taliban. They had been cleared for release in 2009, but the U.S. won't send Guantanamo prisoners to Yemen because of instability there and officials had to find another country to accept them.
Ghana's president, John Mahama, on Tuesday urged residents to not be fearful nearly a week after the government announced it would allow the two Guantanamo Bay detainees to resettle in Ghana.
Mahama said that the country took in the detainees after a direct request by the U.S. government, with whom he said Ghana has been partners in every sphere. He said "no monetary consideration was made to us" to accept them.
Mahama reassured the public saying "I will not take any decision that will jeopardize the safety of the nation."
Al-Dhuby and Bin Atef, who are in their 30s, are the first Guantanamo prisoners resettled in sub-Sahara Africa, and among the first wave of 17 expected to be released this month.
Bin Atef told Ghana Broadcasting Corp. radio they are grateful to the people of Ghana for accepting them.
"We have been wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us and we have suffered," he said on an interview that aired Tuesday. "We are not looking for revenge because we are not bitter. We only want to live in Ghana because we couldn't go back to our country because of the current conflict situation."
The foreign ministry said they would be able to leave after two years. Bin Atef said "We look forward to go back to our country."
On Monday, the Ghana Catholic Bishops Conference, the Christian Council of Ghana and the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council all asked the government to reconsider the decision in separate statements that questioned the security risks.
President Barack Obama's administration seeks to whittle down the population of low-level prisoners as part of a broader effort, opposed by many in Congress, to close the detention center and move remaining detainees to the U.S.