By Jamie Crawford
The United States has transferred the final three ethnic Chinese Uyghur captives from the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Pentagon said on Tuesday.
Yusef Abbas, Saidullah Khalik and Hajiakbar Abdul Ghuper were sent to Slovakia where they were "voluntarily" resettled, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
"The United States is grateful to the government of Slovakia for this humanitarian gesture and its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility," he added.
The Obama administration notified Congress of its intent to transfer the detainees, Kirby said.
The Pentagon has stepped up the process of transferring inmates from Guantanamo but 155 still remain there.
President Barack Obama last week again blamed Congress for hindering his efforts to close the facility, set up to house terror suspects following the 9/11 attacks.
Congress approved legislation this month making it easier to move inmates to third countries, but still blocking attempts to transfer them to U.S. soil.
Some 17 Uyghurs were apprehended in Pakistan in 2001 following the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo.
They initially settled in an Afghan camp with other Uyghurs opposed to the Chinese government before the war started.
Uyghurs are a Muslim minority from the Xinjiang province in western China. The Chinese government alleged those sent to Guantanamo were part of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement – a group that operates in Xinjiang and is on the State Department's list of terror organizations.
The United States refused to send past Uyghur detainees cleared for release to China fearing they would be tortured. But Beijing maintained that would not occur.
Other Uyghurs released from Guantanamo have resettled in Bermuda and Palau.