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U.S. transfers 2 more Guantanamo detainees — to Germany

The Pentagon reduced its Guantanamo prison camps census to 174 foreign captives on Thursday, announcing that it had sent two Arabs to Germany for resettlement.

Germany's leading Der Spiegel newspaper identified one as Ahmed Mohammed al Shurfa, 34, a stateless man of Palestinian descent who was born in Saudi Arabia. He was sent to a hospital in Hamburg and would be resettled there.

The second was Mahmoud Salim al Ali, 36, according to the newspaper, a Syrian citizen who would be resettled by state authorities in Rhineland-Palatinate, in western Germany.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced the transfer hours ahead of the Defense Department in a statement that asked the media to grant the men anonymity to help them adapt to life in Germany.

De Maiziere noted in a statement that Germany took in another former inmate from Guantanamo in 2006 -- German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz, now 28. Kurnaz, however, had grown up in Germany and was repatriated as a resident to live with his mother.

For years, both before and after the Kurnaz repatriation, the Germany government balked at requests to resettle Guantanamo captives who had been cleared of wrongdoing but couldn't return to their homelands for fear of political or religious repression.

Hamburg, the resettlement site of one of the two men sent there this week, was also the base of the al Qaida cell that executed the 9/11 attack.

German officials visited the prison camps earlier this year to interview resettlement candidates, and Der Spiegel quoted an unnamed government as saying, "We haven't brought a sleeper into our country.''

De Maiziere said Thursday that Germany had "made its humanitarian contribution to closing the detention center.''

President Barack Obama said just last week he still seeks to empty the controversial detention center.

Thursday's transfer meant that 15 nations that have taken in noncitizens or nonresidents for resettlement from Guantanamo. They include Albania, Bermuda, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cape Verde, France, Georgia, Ireland, Latvia, Palau, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland. Italy also took custody of two Tunisians in late 2009 for trials.

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