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article imageTop US justice officials to visit Guantanamo

By AFP     Jul 7, 2017 in World

The top US justice officials are to visit the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on Friday amid signs the Trump administration may use it to house new "war on terror" detainees.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are visiting the prison to familiarize themselves with current operations, the Justice Department said.

The notorious prison, which former president Barack Obama had sought unsuccessfully to close, has had no new inmates in more than a decade.

But on taking office, President Donald Trump signalled he wanted an active camp ready to accept "some bad dudes" that might be captured in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere.

"Keeping this country safe from terrorists is the highest priority of the Trump administration," Justice Department spokesman Ian Prior said in a statement.

"Recent attacks in Europe and elsewhere confirm that the threat to our nation is immediate and real, and it remains essential that we use every lawful tool available to prevent as many attacks as possible."

At the height of its operations after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the prison held 780 people detained mostly for their alleged ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, including some of those who planned the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Since then hundreds have been transferred back to their home countries or other places, and the inmate population currently stands at 41, many of them viewed as hardened enemies of the country who cannot be freed.

Some of the most notorious, including several alleged 9/11 co-conspirators, including accused mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, are still awaiting trial.

Around 26 inmates are trapped in legal purgatory. These so-called "forever prisoners" have never been charged -- yet they have been deemed too dangerous to release.

Trump has provided few specifics about his Guantanamo plans, but a draft executive order that leaked from the White House in late January called the facility a "critical tool" in the fight against "radical Islamist groups."

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