Uruguay: Ex-Gitmo detainee also tried to travel to Russia

FILE - In this May 5, 2015 file photo, Abu Wa'el Dhiab, from Syria, sits in front of the U.S. embassy while visiting former fellow detainees demanding financial assistance from the U.S., in Montevideo, Uruguay. Authorities reported on Monday, July 24, 2017, that Dhiab has returned to Uruguay after being deported from Morocco. (AP Photo/Matilde Campodonico, File)

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — A former Guantanamo Bay detainee resettled in Uruguay recently tried to travel to Russia in one of at least four attempts to leave the South American country, an official said Tuesday.

Syrian native Abu Wa'el Dhiab tried to board a flight to Russia but was turned away because he lacked an entry visa, said Christian Mirza, the government liaison with six ex-Guantanamo Bay inmates resettled in Uruguay.

Mirza said Dhiab's failed trip took place between an attempt to enter South Africa last December and his recent deportation from Morocco after arriving with a false passport. Dhiab also went missing for weeks last year before turning up in Venezuela.

Dhiab returned to Uruguay's capital over the weekend after being deported from Morocco. It is unclear how he got there.

Uruguay's police chief says there is no record with migration of when or how Dhiab left Uruguay, leading authorities to believe he slipped across the border with Brazil.

Uruguay took in Dhiab along with five other former Guantanamo prisoners in 2014. But he has expressed unhappiness about being in the country and has gone on a hunger strike to demand he be allowed to leave and join his family in Turkey or in another country.

The Uruguayan government has said Dhiab is free to travel but they cannot force another country to take him. Officials say Turkey, Lebanon and Qatar have rejected taking in Dhiab.

The Syrian was detained as an enemy combatant with suspected ties to militants and was held for 12 years at Guantanamo, but he was never charged. He drew international attention by staging a lengthy hunger strike and frequently clashing with guards. The hunger strikes and forced feedings at Guantanamo left him with health problems, and he walks using crutches.

Dhiab could not immediately be reached for comment despite repeated telephone calls.

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