The White House announced Tuesday it would continue to transfer inmates out of its Guantanamo Bay military prison in Cuba.
"I would expect at this point additional transfers to be announced before January 20," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Outgoing US President Barack Obama leaves office on January 20 to make way for President-elect Donald Trump.
Before Earnest's comments, Trump said there "should be no further releases from Gitmo" via Twitter.
In a direct response to Trump's comments, Earnest said Trump "will have an opportunity to implement the policy that he believes is most effective when he takes office on January 20."
Number of prisoners greatly reduced in recent years
There are currently 59 inmates remaining at the detention center, with around 20 of them cleared for transfer. A source close to the matter told Reuters news agency that Obama planned to transfer as many as 18 prisoners.
Finding countries to accept the prisoners has proven challenging and time-consuming. Most of those detained in the prison have not been charged. But the prison also holds the alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Shortly after Obama took office in January 2009, he called for the Guantanamo Bay prison to be shut down. He was not able to close the prison during his presidency due to political opposition in Congress, but the number of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay has been greatly reduced in recent years due to transfers or releases.
The prison opened in 2002 as a makeshift camp to hold what the US described as foreign terrorism suspects. The treatment of detainees there has drawn international criticism, with detainees subjected to "enhanced interrogation" techniques that critics have called torture.
kbd/cmk (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)