KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Several Afghans who had been held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay were released because they were no longer considered a terrorist threat, officials said yesterday.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Cmdr. Barbara Burfeind, said 18 prisoners had left the base at Guantanamo on Friday to be released.

About 30 new prisoners were taken to America’s high-security island prison in Cuba yesterday, bringing to about 660 the number of inmates there, Burfeind said.

Afgan presidential spokesman Sayed Fazel Akbar said earlier that U.S. authorities handed over 19 prisoners to Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry on Saturday. There was no immediate explanation for the discrepancy in numbers.

“According to the Americans who investigated them, they no longer posed a terrorist threat to the international coalition,” Akbar said.

Akbar gave no other details and it was unclear if the prisoners were still in custody. Interior Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

About 11,000 soldiers from 23 nations – the bulk of them American – are headquartered at Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base to hunt down Taliban holdouts and remnants of the al-Qaida terrorist network.

In October, three other Afghans were released from America’s high-security island prison in Cuba and flown to Bagram, just north of the capital.

After a few days in Afghan custody in Kabul, the government and the International Red Cross arranged for their transport home.

It’s unclear how many Afghans remain at Guantanamo bay.

Those who returned last year recounted how they had been confined in open-air cages and interrogated for hours at a time. They were not allowed any contact with their families for the better part of a year.

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