WASHINGTON - Former Osama bin Laden driver Salim Hamdan is being transferred from the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to his home country of Yemen, a senior defense official said.

Hamdan was convicted of aiding Al Qaeda in August and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison. He would be eligible for release in January with credit for time served.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said Monday that Hamdan will serve out the remainder of his sentence in Yemen.

Waleed Alshahari, who oversees Guantanamo Bay issues for the Yemen Embassy in Washington, said he was surprised to learn of plans for Hamdan's release because there have been no new negotiations on the release of the 90 or so Yemeni detainees at the prison.