TOKYO — One of six Uighur men resettled to the tiny island of Palau after being released from the Guantanamo Bay military prison four years ago is missing, an official from the South Pacific nation said Thursday.
Adel Noori has been missing since late last year, Rhinehart Silas said by phone from Koror, Palau's largest city. Silas, the deputy chief of staff to Palau's president, said Noori had no passport and it was unclear where he went. He said the Palaun government just learned of his disappearance and was investigating.
Uighurs are Muslims from the restive region of Xinjiang in western China who often complain of discrimination there.
The six were resettled to the South Pacific nation in 2009 after a U.S. judge ordered their release from Guantanamo, where they were imprisoned for about eight years for allegedly having ties to terrorist organizations. China continues to claim they have terrorist links. The men fear that if they are sent back to China they would face long prison sentences.
According to a local newspaper, Tia Belau, Noori worked as a security guard at the Palau Community College but hasn't appeared at work for two months. The college refused to comment.
The report said Noori, 43, is believed to have made his way to Turkey to be with his wife and baby. It was unclear how he got off the island, since the Uighurs on Palau are legally stateless and do not have passports. The report also said Noori had transited through Japan, but Foreign Ministry officials in Tokyo said they had no information about that.
Ahmat Abdulahad, another of the Uighur men on Palau, said he had not seen Noori for more than a month, though he had normally met Noori once a week or so. Some of the men have married since being brought to Palau and have begun raising families of their own.
"I was very surprised to see the report," Abdulahad said by telephone. "I don't know anything about where he went."
The resettlement of the Uighurs' to Palau – which was intended to be temporary – has been fraught with problems.
Palau has no Muslim community other than a few Bangladeshis and the men have frequently complained that they have difficulty with the language, culture and finding jobs. Palau's government also recently decided to reduce the monthly stipend it pays to help support them.
Palau's new president, Tommy Remengesau, has said he intends to step up efforts to find them a permanent home elsewhere, but has acknowledged that such moves have stalled.
.Along with Palau, Uighurs released from Guantanamo have settled in Albania, El Salvador, Switzerland and other countries.