By SADAQAT JAN, Associated Press
Eight Pakistanis released from U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, returned home Monday, a Cabinet minister said.
Two of the men had been held in Guantanamo Bay and the six others were at Bagram, the main U.S. military base north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, said Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao.
Sherpao said the eight were arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of being terrorists following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He declined to give their identities.
The eight were taken to a jail in Rawalpindi, the garrison city near the capital, Islamabad, where authorities were to debrief them before allowing them to return to their homes, Sherpao said.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chito Peppler confirmed that two Pakistani detainees were sent home from Guantanamo Bay over the weekend. A detainee from Bahrain and another from Iran also were transferred to their home countries, he said.
Fourteen Pakistanis remain in Bagram and five are being held at Guantanamo, the minister said, adding efforts were being made to secure their release.
"Hopefully they will be released," Sherpao said of the remaining Pakistanis in U.S. custody.
The releases follow efforts by Pakistani officials, who had been trying for months to secure the detainees' freedom.
Previously, another 68 Pakistanis had been freed from Guantanamo Bay after spending years in custody and later being cleared without formally being charged.
Thousands of Pakistanis went to Afghanistan to fight the U.S.-led coalition after it launched its military campaign in October, 2001 against the then-ruling Taliban militia for harboring al-Qaida.
When the Taliban rule was dismantled in late 2001, many of the Pakistanis were captured by anti-Taliban Afghan warlords and jailed in cramped prisons. Some Pakistanis ended up in U.S. custody and were taken to Guantanamo Bay and Bagram.
Pakistan had long been a close supporter of the Taliban regime, but changed allegiance to the United States after the Sept. 11 attacks and joined the war on terrorism.
Pakistani security forces have captured more than 700 al-Qaida suspects, including several senior figures in the terror network. Many of them have been handed over to the United States.
The latest transfers leave about 435 detainees at the U.S. detention center in eastern Cuba, including about 110 eligible for transfer or release, Peppler said.
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