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Washington - Detainees are in their third week of a hunger strike at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, aimed at recapturing media attention to their situation, the commanding general responsible for the prison said Wednesday.
General John Kelly, commander of the US Southern Command, told Congress that detainees were “devastated” after their “optimism” was dashed that Guantanamo would be closed.
A total of 24 detainees have joined the hunger strike that began March 4 or 5. Major Jeff Pool told dpa that eight of the strikers are receiving nutrition through “enteral feeding” - a referral to force feeding through a tube.
In his testimony, Kelly said he believed the intention of the strikers was to “turn the heat up, get it back in the media.”
Kelly referred to the hope raised by President Barack Obama's pledge in 2008 to close the facility where 166 terrorist suspects are still detained. Congress has refused to approve the closure and the transfer of prisoners to US soil where they may have been tried in US civilian court.
“They had ... great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed,” Kelly said. “They were devastated when the president ... backed off - at least their perception - of closing the facility.”
“He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. He said nothing about it in his ... State of the Union speech,” Kelly said.
Kelly, who said the military has a “fairly positive” relationship with most of the detainees, said their continuing situation “has caused them to become frustrated.”
Most of the detainees have been held for years without formal charges being filed or brought to trial.
Hearings are under way in only two cases: that of the five suspects in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, led by the Khalid Sheikh Mohammmed of Saudi Arabia or Qatar; and that of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri of Saudi Arabia, who is charged with masterminding the USS Cole bombing in 2000 in Yemen that killed 17 sailors.
It was not known if any of those six detainees are involved in the hunger strike. - Sapa-dpa