The US Defence Department and a Canadian minister announced on Friday that Guantanamo Bay’s youngest detainee, Omar Khadr, was transferred to his native Canada.
Born in Toronto in 1986, Khadr, now 26 years old, was 15 when he was arrested by US troops in 2002 during a US ground and air attack in Afghanistan. He was also the last Westerner held in Guantanamo Bay.
Khadr left the prison in Cuba on a US military plane and arrived at a Canadian air base in Trenton in Ontario province, said Canada’s Public Safety Minister Vic Toews. Khadr was sent to the Millhaven maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario, the minister said in a statement to reporters.
“Omar Khadr is a known supporter of the al Qaeda terrorist network and a convicted terrorist,” Toews added. The Pentagon confirmed the transfer but gave few details.
A US war crimes tribunal in 2010 sentenced Khadr to 40 years in prison, although he was expected to serve just a few more years under a deal that included his admission he was an al Qaeda conspirator, who hurled a grenade that killed a US Special Forces soldier during a gun battle, following a raid on a suspected al Qaeda compound in Afghanistan.
He pleaded guilty in 2010 to charges that included conspiring with al Qaeda to commit terrorist acts, making roadside bombs to target US troops in Afghanistan, spying on American military convoys and providing material support for terrorism.
Khadr was to have served only a year of confinement in US custody before his transfer, and according to the Defence Department, was to serve the rest of his eight-year sentence of confinement in accordance with Canadian law. However, his transfer did not take place till September 2012.
At the time of his transfer to Guantanamo Bay, he was the youngest detainee to be sent to the notorious US detention facility.
The total number of detainees now at Guantanamo Bay is 166. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2012.