Approximately 180 prisoners released from Guantanamo Bay “have returned to the battlefield,” including up to 30 who have joined militant groups in Syria such as the Islamic State.
Senior Defense Department and intelligence officials told Fox News that, while the precise numbers are elusive, some released detainees are known to have joined forces with the Islamic State, al-Qaida, or the al-Nusra Front. The names of those former prisoners were not provided.
Other released radicals remain outside Syria but support the militant groups there with fundraising and propaganda operations.
About 30 percent of the 620 prisoners released from Gitmo are known or suspected “to have returned to the battlefield,” Fox News reported, but a relatively small number of those are believed to be in Syria.
President Barack Obama promised in 2009 to close down the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, but that’s proven easier said than done. Other nations do not want the detainees, Congress has resisted efforts to relocate them to mainland facilities, and many have warned that released prisoners would return to their jihad against American interests.
Officials said that most repatriated militants remain in their home countries and fight there. But the former prisoners who have joined the Islamic State forces in Syria hail from six European countries and at least two in Africa and travelled to Syria after the United States returned them to their homelands.
“These people are ideologically and essentially religiously committed to their evil cause, and it is very hard to sort out who are going to stay at home and who are going to return to the battlefield,” former U.S. ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey told Fox News.
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