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Last Updated: Saturday, 6 May 2006, 01:36 GMT 02:36 UK
Albania takes Guantanamo Uighurs
Guantanamo inmate clutches prayer beads
The Uighurs have been at Guantanamo for five years
Five Chinese Muslim men have been released from the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay and flown to Albania for resettlement, the US says.

US officials had concluded the ethnic Uighers represented no danger but did not want to return them to China for fear they would face persecution.

Uighurs are seeking a homeland in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang.

The US state department called Albania's offer to resettle the men, "an important humanitarian gesture".

The five men were among about 20 Chinese Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, along with some 470 other inmates.

'Incredible news'

Two of the men, Abu Bakker Qassim and A'del Abdu al-Hakim, had taken their bid for freedom all the way to the US Supreme Court.

They had been forced to remain in the camp even though the US military determined a year ago they were not "enemy combatants" as had been thought when they were captured in Pakistan in 2001.

CHINA'S UIGHURS
Ethnically Turkic Muslims, mainly in Xinjiang
Made bid for independent state in 1940s
Sporadic violence in Xinjiang since 1991
Uighurs worried about Chinese immigration and erosion of traditional culture

The Bush administration did not want to admit them to the US, and was seeking another country to take them.

Their case was due to be heard again at a lower court on Monday.

The move to Albania meant the US government could, "avoid having to answer in court for keeping innocent men in jail," lawyer Barbara Olshansky said.

The Uighur-American Association called the men's release "incredible news".

"It's all been very sudden and unexpected, but we understand that all five men are healthy and happy to be free, if a little bewildered by events," Nury Turkel, the association's president, said.

China has insisted that its nationals held at Guantanamo Bay on suspicion of terrorism should be returned.

Beijing has frequently cracked down on Uighur dissidents.

It accuses Uighur militants of waging a bombing and assassination campaign, and receiving training at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.




SEE ALSO:
Guantanamo Uighur appeal rejected
17 Apr 06 |  Americas
US camp holds 'homeless' Chinese
24 Aug 05 |  Americas
Fighting the cause of China's Uighurs
24 Jun 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China 'crushing Muslim Uighurs'
12 Apr 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Uighurs behind bars in China
18 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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