KOROR Six Chinese Muslims newly released from
The ethnic Uighurs, in
'They appeared to be very happy,' Toribiong told reporters later. 'They smiled, they thanked me, they called me brother. It's amazing. I feel really good about it.'
The Pentagon determined last year that the Uighurs held at Guantanamo were not 'enemy combatants,' but they have been in legal limbo ever since, as President Barack Obama sought countries willing to take them as part of his plan to close the detention facility by next January.
The Uighurs are from Xinjiang, a far western region of
US-based lawyers for three of the released men praised
'These men want nothing more than to live peaceful, productive lives in a free, democratic nation safe from oppression by the Chinese,' said Eric Tirschwell. 'Thanks to
Toribiong said what he called a 'temporary' resettlement could mean 'a few months or a few years.'
The Uighurs' new home has undergone construction in recent weeks to accommodate the men. It is a five-minute walk from Koror's only mosque, one of two in the country.
The island nation, best known for diving and tourism, has a Muslim population of about 500, mostly migrant workers from
Despite their long flight and late arrival, the men were too excited to sleep, a lawyer for two of them told reporters outside their new home.
'They haven't slept, they're wired, in a little bit of shock,' said George Clarke.
'They're very happy that the Palauan people have allowed them to come here.'
He said the men were still choosing their bedrooms in the large house with ocean views, a dramatic change of scenery from the minimum-security detention area where they were last held behind razor wire.
Toribiong said the Uighurs would be provided medical care, housing and education, including English lessons and instruction in skills that will help them find a job.
The US Department of Justice said in a statement it would continue to consult with
Before this transfer of the Uighurs, about 221 prisoners remained at Guantanamo.— AP