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Archive for Saturday, May 20, 2006

Guards, inmates clash at U.S. jail

May 20, 2006

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— Prisoners with makeshift weapons battled guards trying to save a detainee pretending to commit suicide at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in what military officials said Friday was a coordinated attack that left six prisoners injured.

Word of the injuries comes as a U.N. panel pressed the United States to close Guantanamo, saying the indefinite detention of terror suspects violates the ban on torture.

"This illustrates to me the dangerous nature of the men we have detained here," the detention center's commanding officer, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, told reporters in a teleconference, describing Thursday's attack.

The clash, which took place on the same day that two detainees attempted suicide elsewhere in the camp, was among the most violent incidents reported at the isolated detention center, where the U.S. holds about 460 men suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. Defense lawyers said the suicide attempts reflected increasing despair among detainees, most of whom have been held for more than four years without charges.

The most recent turmoil at the detention center on a U.S. Navy base began Thursday morning when a detainee who failed to show up for morning prayers was found unconscious in his cell, Harris said.

Tests indicated he had taken an overdose of drugs similar to the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. He was hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

Early in the afternoon, guards searching the prison for contraband prescription medicine found another detainee "frothing at the mouth" from an overdose of drugs. He also was hospitalized in stable condition, the admiral said.

In the early evening, guards spotted a detainee in Camp Four - a medium security, communal-living unit for the "most compliant" prisoners - appearing to get ready to hang himself with a bed sheet in the room he shared with nine detainees.

The detainees had made the floor slippery with feces, urine and soapy water and attacked 10 members of Guantanamo's quick-reaction force with fan blades, pieces of metal and broken light fixtures, Harris said.

Outside, Guantanamo officials mustered 100 more guards before the quick-reaction force gained control.

Six detainees had minor injuries and no guards were injured, Harris said. The prisoners involved in the melee were moved to a higher security area.

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