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Nearly half of Guantanamo prisoners now on hunger strike

Published April 20, 2013 2:48 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Miami • Nearly half the war-on-terror captives at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were considered hunger strikers Saturday, with 10 percent of them being tube fed, according to the military.

Army Lt. Col. Samuel House released the hunger strike figure – 77 of the 166 captives considered hunger strikers, 17 being force-fed via tubes snaked up their noses and into their stomachs – in an e-mail Saturday morning from the remote base a day after reporters left the island.

The hunger strike figure rose by 14 prisoners overnight. The military reported the hunger-strike figure at 63 on Friday.

A total of five captives were hospitalized Saturday, said House, deputy prison camps spokesman. None of the hospitalized captives "have any life-threatening conditions," he added.

Hunger strike figures have been steadily climbing since U.S. troops raided a communal medium-security compound at the prison camps a week ago, and placed about 65 captives under single-cell lockdown. The detainees had weeks before covered up most of the prison's surveillance cameras and kept largely out of view of their U.S. Army guards, the military said, stirring fears that some were planning to commit suicide.

"They wanted to die of hunger and thirst behind the hidden cameras," according to the prison's Muslim cultural advisor, a Pentagon employee who allows himself to be identified only by his first name, Zak.

Before the April 13 raid, the Pentagon prison reported that it considered 43 captives to be hunger strikers, had none in the hospital and 13 on tube feedings. But the figure has been rising as the 100-member Navy medical staff continues to assess the captives who on Saturday were stripped of most of their belongings and confined to austere, single-occupancy cells.