Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Sunday, 15 November 2009

US jail 'may take Guantanamo men'

Thomson correctional facility (file photo)
Thomson jail is tipped as the 'leading option' for Guantanamo inmates

The Obama administration is considering moving some Guantanamo detainees to a prison in the president's home state of Illinois, unnamed US officials say.

Administration officials are expected to visit the near-empty, top security Thomson Correctional Center, west of Chicago in the next day or so.

President Obama has pledged to close the Guantanamo Bay camp by 22 January.

Reports about relocating inmates come a day after plans were announced to try five men over the 9/11 attacks.

The Thomson prison, built by Illinois state in 2001 with 1,600 maximum security cells, has been dogged by budget problems, AP news agency reports.

Only its minimum security unit with 200 beds is currently open, the jail's website says.

'Safety and security'

Officials suggest the Federal Bureau of Prisons could buy the Thomson site and lease part of it to the Department of Defense to house Guantanamo inmates.

A statement from the office of State governor Pat Quinn, quoted by US news reports, said senior Obama administration officials would visit the Thomson prison to see whether the "virtually vacant, state of the art facility" could be of use.

However, the statement made no mention of possible plans to move Guantanamo inmates - alleged terrorism suspects - there.

About 215 prisoners remain in the camp, on a US base in Cuba.

Opposition to any such plans has been voiced by Representative Mark Kirk, a Republican, who urged the White House to "put the safety and security of Illinois families first and stop any plan to transfer al-Qaeda terrorists to our state."

Of the remaining Guantanamo inmates, some are expected to be sent to other countries, others could face military tribunals or be tried in US courts.

Thomson is one of a number of places reported to be interested in taking Guantanamo inmates. Officials in Colorado, Montana and elsewhere in Illinois have said they would welcome the jobs that would be generated, AP reported.

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