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Sunday, 10 February, 2002, 03:12 GMT
War captives baffle US interrogators
Camp X-Ray at night
The prison has open-air cells with chain-link walls
The US military has admitted to difficulties in identifying Taleban and al-Qaeda detainees as 34 more are put in cells at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The latest batch of detainees, who arrived on Saturday, brought to 220 the total number of Afghan war captives held at the US naval base. The US military is holding another 237 in Afghanistan.

Prisoners kneeling at the base in Cuba
Pictures of the restrained men have caused outrage

It is the second group to be flown to the base from Kandahar since flights resumed on Wednesday, following a pause while more cells were built.

The US officer in charge of Camp X-Ray - the Guantanamo Bay prison - indicated that interrogations were proceeding slowly, with some detainees giving false information.

"A large number claim to be Taleban, a smaller number we have been able to confirm as al-Qaeda, and a rather large number in the middle we have not been able to determine their status," said Marine Brigadier-General Mike Lehnert.

"Many of the detainees are not forthcoming. Many have been interviewed as many as four times, each time providing a different name and different information," he added.

Status dispute

On Thursday, President George W Bush decided to apply the Geneva Convention on the conduct of war to the Taleban but not to the al-Qaeda prisoners.

But President Bush has refused to bow to pressure from several countries to grant them prisoner-of-war status.

POW status would mean the detainees do not have to submit to interrogation, and would have to be released on the cessation of hostilities.

Al-Qaeda links

Brigadier-General Lehnert said detainees identified as members of al-Qaeda were generally confirmed through other sources and not through their own admission.

  • Buckets for toilets
  • Thin foam mattresses
  • Beards shaved

    Clickable guide: Inside Camp X-Ray

  • The US blames al-Qaeda, led by fugitive Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden, for the 11 September suicide attacks on America.

    A Muslim Navy cleric at Camp X-Ray, quoted by the Associated Press news agency, said some of the detainees had expressed regrets to him about the suicide attacks.

    According to a senior Pentagon official, the detainees include about 50 Saudis, 30 Yemenis, 25 Pakistanis, eight Algerians, three Britons and small numbers from Egypt, Australia, France, Russia, Belgium and Sweden.

    Treatment of the men at the camp has provoked international criticism and claims of human rights abuses.

    Washington insists that the detainees - who are kept in open-air cells with walls of chain-link fence - are being treated humanely.

    The International Red Cross says it still disagrees with the United States over how to classify the captives.

    The Red Cross maintains that, under the Geneva Conventions, only an international tribunal, not the victorious power, can determine whether detainees are entitled to the rights and status of prisoners of war.

    The BBC's Nick Hawton
    "Telling the difference between Taleban and al-Qaeda is not that easy"
    See also:

    07 Feb 02 | Americas
    New prisoners arrive at Guantanamo
    23 Jan 02 | Americas
    US halts transfers to Cuba camp
    22 Jan 02 | Americas
    Analysis: US court challenge
    22 Jan 02 | Americas
    Judge's 'doubts' over Cuba prisoners
    16 Jan 02 | Americas
    US Taleban suspect 'refused lawyer'
    22 Jan 02 | Americas
    Geneva Convention to cover Taleban
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