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Gitmo fate unclear despite Obama’s vow to close it


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – Immediately after taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama directed the government to close the widely unpopular military prison at Guantanamo within a year. He called it a recruiting tool for terrorists.

But the president has had trouble lining up help from other countries and even his own political party: Republicans and some Democrats have vehemently opposed moving terror suspects to U.S. soil, citing security fears.

Today fewer than 200 detainees are in custody at the U.S. naval base in southeastern Cuba, compared with about 780 who have been jailed within its razor-wire fences at some point.

Some of those who remain have been cleared for release by Pentagon review panels, but have not been repatriated for fears they could be mistreated in their native countries.

Others are considered among the highest-value terrorism suspects, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the 9/11 attack.

The tribunal system for prosecuting terrorism suspects, which Obama had put on hold for months, is expected to begin revving up this summer with modifications.

The next inmate scheduled for trial is Omar Khadr, a Canadian accused of killing an American solider with a grenade in Afghanistan when he was 15.

The Obama administration has said it wants to hold the detainees in an Illinois prison, but Congress first has to both approve the money to buy the prison and change current law barring detainees from entering the country for anything other than trial.

The president’s self-imposed deadline to close Guantanamo passed in January. U.S. officials refuse to predict when the detention center will get a new date for closure.

Associated Press