Prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to be sent home because they are 'no longer a threat'

The US government is to release a small number of prisoners from Guantanamo Bay having decided they are no longer a security threat. The prisoners – said to include a man in his 80s – are to be returned to their own countries. A number of the prisoners to be released are believed to be Pakistanis.

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld confirmed yesterday the prisoners are to be released soon, possibly within the next few days. "There are some people likely to come out of the other end of the chute," he told a press conference at the Pentagon.

Officials at the Pakistan embassy in Washington said that a visit to Camp Delta where 598 alleged Taliban an al-Qa'ida fighters are being held had identified a number of its nationals who did not pose a threat to the US.

"We vetted them and gave our assessment ... that some of the detainees did not pose a threat," said spokesman Asad Hayauddin.

The US has said for months that some of the prisoners, from 42 countries, might eventually be released to other countries, ideally to be prosecuted there. Mr Rumsfeld said it was unclear whether the men to be released would be freed completely or simply transferred to another country.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Commander Jeff Davis said: "Over the course of our efforts against terrorism, we expect there will be numerous releases, and presumably transfers, to other countries."

Some prisoners have been held for the best part of a year, since being transferred to Guantanamo Bay from Afghanistan. All have faced interrogation. One official said that for safety reasons, no details of any transfer will be announced until the prisoners have safely arrived.