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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 18:29 GMT
Youngest Guantanamo inmates freed
 Guantanamo Bay
The boys were kept separate from the adult detainees
The United States has released three teenage boys who have been held in custody at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba for more than a year.

The three boys, believed to be aged between 13 and 15, were sent back to their unnamed country of origin.

They were the youngest prisoners at the US military base and were suspected of supporting the Taleban in Afghanistan.

The boys' detention without trial provoked strong criticism from human rights groups.

The US Defence Department said the boys no longer posed a threat to the United States, and they had no further value as suspects for interrogation.

More than 600 suspected al-Qaeda and Taleban fighters have been held without charge at the base since the US-led war in Afghanistan, which followed the 11 September attacks in 2001.


Eighty seven detainees have now been released from the prison. Four others have been transferred to Saudi Arabia for detention there.

The Pentagon said the boys' names were not being released for fear of reprisals against them.

Age is not a determining factor in detention. We detain enemy combatants who engaged in armed conflict against our forces or provided support to those fighting against us

Pentagon spokesman
"With the assistance of non-governmental organisations, the juveniles will be resettled in their home country," said a spokesman.

"It is our goal to return them to an environment where they have an opportunity to re-integrate into civil society."

Two of the boys were captured during raids by US troops on Taleban camps in Afghanistan and were sent to Guantanamo in January 2002.

The other was captured trying to obtain weapons for the Taleban.

In August, the US general running Guantanamo agreed they should be sent home but said he was awaiting orders from senior defence officials.

After medical tests showed the boys were under 16 they were held in separate facilities from adult detainees.

They received lessons and were given rewards for good behaviour.

The BBC's Donna Larsen
"The Pentagon decided they no longer posed a threat"

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