Return Guantanamo detainees to China, Beijing demands
Bermuda accepts four Uighurs, Palau will temporarily resettle remaining 13
Seventeen Chinese Muslims held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba should be handed over to China immediately — not transported to another country, Beijing demanded on Thursday.
"China also opposes any country taking any of these terrorist suspects," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang on Thursday.
Beijing was reacting to news that Palau will be resettling some of the ethnic Uighurs. U.S. officials have since announced that four of the men have been transferred to Bermuda to be part of the country's guest worker program.
Qin said the U.S. should "stop handing over terrorist suspects to any third country, so as to expatriate them to China at an early date."
He did not clarify if China intended to take action against the U.S.
Palau has agreed to a U.S. request to temporarily resettle the Guantanamo Bay detainees, who were taken into custody in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2001.
The Pentagon later determined the men not to be enemy combatants. They were cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2003 but feared they would be tortured if returned to China, where they are still considered terrorists.
Canada refused entry
The Uighurs are a unique group among the Guantanamo detainees. A federal judge ordered last year that they be released in the United States, but an appeals court overruled that decision. U.S. officials would not return them to China out of concerns they would be tortured or executed.
Albania accepted five Uighurs from Guantanamo in 2006, but declined to take more. Many nations have said no to receiving the Uighurs, out of concern that doing so would anger the Chinese government.
Canada was among the nations that refused to allow them entry.
The Beijing government has repeatedly urged the U.S. to turn the Uighurs over to Chinese authorities.
China believes the detainees, who are ethnic minority Uighurs, are members of an extremist Islamic separatist movement in the western region of Xinjiang.
Palau President Johnson Toribiong said his country believes the Uighurs to be separatists, not terrorists and did not consider China's reaction when it accepted the U.S. request to temporarily resettle the detainees.
Palau, an island state in the Pacific, does not have diplomatic relations with China, but Palau has retained close ties with the United States since independence in 1994 and is entitled to U.S. protection under an accord.
Uighurs have become "international vagabonds," Toribiong said.
"It's an old-age tradition of Palauans to accommodate the homeless who find their way to the shores of Palau," Toribiong told The Associated Press. "We did agree to accept them due to the fact that they have become basically homeless and need to find a place of refuge and freedom."
The men will be placed in a halfway house and given time to acclimatize to the tropical climate, he said. How long the men stay depends on whether they can find a better place to be permanently relocated, Toribiong said.
Detainees from Chad, Iraq released
Meanwhile, U.S. officials say two more Guantanamo Bay detainees have been released and sent to their home countries of Iraq and Chad.
The U.S. Justice Department said Jawad Jabber Sadkhan was sent to Iraq Wednesday night while Mohammed el-Gharani arrived in Chad Thursday.
El-Gharani, who was 14 when he was arrested in 2001 in Pakistan for alleged ties to the Taliban, was said to be the youngest detainee at Guantanamo. In January, a U.S. judge ordered that he be released.
There are now 232 detainees remaining at Guantanamo, down from more than 500 five years ago.
With files from The Associated Press