Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chinese Muslims face culture shock in Palau

KOROR, Palau (AP) — They came from a land of scorching deserts, snowcapped mountains, camels and mosques. Now after several miserable years imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, 13 Muslims from China will try to resettle on the tiny Pacific nation of Palau — a land of lush beach resorts.

Some residents said Friday they are afraid of the former prisoners, while others worried they won't adjust to life here.

"It's good to be humanitarian and all, but still these people to me are scary," said Natalia Baulis, 30, a mother of two, in Palau's laid-back capital, Koror.

The detainees were captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2001, but the Pentagon determined last year that they were not "enemy combatants."

They have been treated like global untouchables since the U.S. decided to free them, saying they weren't a danger to the country. No nation agreed to take the 13 men until Palau — a former U.S. trust territory — welcomed them to the tropical tourist getaway, about 500 miles east of the Philippines.

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