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US: Guantanamo inmates join growing hunger strike
More prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have joined a growing hunger strike that their lawyers say reflects hopelessness about their prospects of ever being freed from the US detention center in Cuba.
Twenty-four captives were on a hunger strike as of Tuesday evening and eight of those had lost enough weight that doctors were force-feeding them liquid nutrients through tubes inserted into their noses and down into their stomachs, said Navy Captain Robert Durand, a spokesman for the detention operation.
The detention camp at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base in eastern Cuba holds 166 men captured in counter-terrorism operations. Nearly all have been held for 11 years without charge.
The number of hunger strikers has grown from 14 on Friday, Durand said. The military counts prisoners as hunger strikers if they have skipped at least nine consecutive meals.
Two hunger strikers were hospitalized with dehydration, he said.
The Obama administration has cleared more than half the Guantanamo prisoners for release or transfer, but Congress has blocked efforts to close the detention camp and made it increasingly difficult to resettle Guantanamo prisoners.
Many are Yemenis whom the United States will not repatriate at this time because of instability in that country.
More than 50 lawyers representing Guantanamo prisoners sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week urging him to help end the current hunger strike. They said the participants' health had deteriorated alarmingly, and that some had lost between 9 and 14 kilograms.
The lawyers said hopes were dwindling that the Obama administration would keep its promise to close the camp. They said more than 100 detainees began a widescale hunger strike on February 6 to protest the confiscation of letters, photographs and legal mail, and the rough handling of Qurans during searches of their cells.
Durand called the allegations "outright falsehoods and gross exaggerations."
The detention facility at Guantanamo was opened in 2002 to house prisoners rounded up in "War on Terror" waged by President George W. Bush’s administration following the 9/11 attacks. Periodic hunger strikes have occurred since shortly after the prison opened.
In January 2009, Obama signed an executive order to close down the facility, but has failed to follow through with a promise he made during his first electoral campaign.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)
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