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U.S. military tries to halt Guantanamo hunger strike
The U.S. military moved Guantanamo prisoners out of communal cellblocks and into individual cells over the weekend in an attempt to halt an ongoing hunger strike. Here are some facts about the detention operation at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval base in eastern Cuba:
- The United States set up the camp after U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to oust the al Qaeda network that launched hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, the Pentagon and rural Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001.
- The first 20 prisoners arrived on January 11, 2002. They and other early arrivals were held at "Camp X-Ray," in chain-link wire cages that have long since been replaced by modern prison buildings. The camp has held 779 foreign captives, 166 of whom remain. They are from 23 nations and range in age from about 26 to 65.
- The United States spends more than $114 million a year to run the Guantanamo prison, according to the General Accountability Office. That is $686,747 per prisoner, or nearly 20 times as much as the U.S. Bureau of Prisons spends per inmate at its high-security prisons. Costs are high because of the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, which forces the military to import food, fuel and supplies to the base from the United States.
- The camp was set up to hold and interrogate detainees suspected of links to al Qaeda, the Taliban and other groups classified by the United States as terrorist organizations. Many were captured outside Afghanistan as part of the "global war on terrorism."
- Many detainees have said they were tortured at Guantanamo. The U.S. government has acknowledged that interrogators used now-banned techniques that included sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and loud music. And they chained prisoners in painful "stress positions." The CIA admitted using the simulated drowning technique known as "waterboarding" on three of the captives who were held at secret prisons and then transferred to Guantanamo.
- Nine prisoners have died at Guantanamo. Seven deaths were classified as suicides, mainly by hanging, and two were attributed to natural causes, namely colon cancer and heart attack.
- President George W. Bush authorized military tribunals to try captives on war crimes charges shortly before the camp opened. President Barack Obama criticized the tribunals but has continued them under revised rules. Only seven cases have been completed in 11 years, and two of those were overturned on appeal. Pretrial hearings are ongoing in two death penalty cases. One involves a Saudi prisoner accused of orchestrating a boat-bomb attack that killed 17 U.S. sailors aboard the American warship USS Cole in 2000. The other involves the admitted mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and four alleged co-conspirators.
- Obama ordered the camp closed by January 2010 but missed the deadline. Nearly half the remaining prisoners are Yemenis, and he suspended transfers to that nation due to reports that an al Qaeda affiliate there was behind a failed attempt to blow up a U.S. airplane on Christmas Day 2009. Congress blocked funding for Obama's plan to move some detainees to the United States and put tight restrictions on transfers out of Guantanamo.
[Source: Reuters, 15Apr13]
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