By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA, Jan 11 – Two Yemenis transferred to Ghana after their release from the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba said on Monday they hoped to live peacefully and rebuild their lives in the West African country.
Mahmud Umar Muhammad Bin Atef and Khalid Muhammad Salih al-Dhuby were held in Guantanamo for more than a decade. Their transfer to Ghana was announced by the U.S. Defense Department last week.
“We were wrongly arrested for 14 years without any charge against us but we are not looking for revenge. We want to live in Ghana quietly and peacefully and we want to put our life together,” Bin Atef told state radio on Monday.
Dozens of countries have received former Guantanamo Bay detainees but the transfers of Bin Atef and Dhuby were the first to Ghana.
The government has granted permission for the two to remain in the country for two years, subject to security clearances, and has sought to play down concerns about their presence in Ghana.
U.S. Government documents posted online by the New York Times identified Dhuby, who was sent to Guantanamo in May 2002 after his capture in Afghanistan, as someone who had been asessed as “a probable member” of al Qaeda. Bin Atef was identified by in the same documents as “an admitted member of the Taliban.”
Both men had been cleared for release by the Pentagon years ago, however.
“I just want the listeners and the people of Ghana to know that we are not a part of any bad group, like al-Qaeda or anything like that,” Bin Atef said on state-run UniiqFM.
Some religious and political groups, including Ghana’s main opposition political party, have strongly criticized the government for accepting the men.
But Dhuby may have won some support by saying he was a big fan of Ghana’s national soccer team, along with his fellow Guantanamo detainees, in his comments on national radio on Monday.
“We were very excited to come here because we love people in Ghana – somebody like Asamoah Gyan. We know him, we like him very much just as other people like him,” Dhuby said.
Asamoah Gyan led Ghana’s national team at the 2010 FIFA World Cup played in South Africa.
“In the name of Allah we want to thank the president and the good people of Ghana of the decision to accept us,” Dhuby said.