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Sunday, 3 March, 2002, 23:09 GMT
US plays down X-Ray hunger protests
US naval medic prepares intravenous fluids for the prisoners
The US says it will not let detainees harm themselves
Scores of al-Qaeda and Taleban suspects being held at the US military base in Cuba refused food on Sunday, the fifth day of a protest action.

But the US prison authorities in Guantanamo said that only 13 of the 300 detainees had actually maintained a fast since the start of the protest.


We have 13 individuals who have not eaten at all since this hunger strike started - others have had at least one meal since this whole thing started

Marine Captain Alan Crouch
prison spokesman

The action was sparked by an incident during which guards removed a turban from one detainee while he was praying.

Prison guards made a cell-by-cell count after breakfast and lunch as FBI Director Robert Mueller flew in for a visit.

Of the 300, 91 refused to eat breakfast while 81 declined lunch.

"We have 13 individuals who have not eaten at all since this hunger strike started," said a prison spokesman, Marine Captain Joe Kloppel.

"Others have had at least one meal since this whole thing started."

Concessions

Prisoners have now been told that they may wear turbans but that guards have the right to inspect them at any time.

Six detainees were being treated for dehydration with intravenous fluids this weekend.

One was forcibly administered the fluids after initially refusing them.


  • Buckets for toilets
  • Thin foam mattresses
  • Three daily "culturally appropriate" meals

      Clickable guide: Inside Camp X-Ray

  • A camp spokesman, Marine Captain Alan Crouch, said the detainees were not going to be allowed "to harm themselves or starve".

    The Pentagon has said the real cause of tension at Camp X-Ray is the prisoners' uncertainty over their fate, not problems in practising their faith.

    Washington, fighting a war on terrorism, has refused to grant the captives Prisoner of War status, to the concern of many US allies.

    The US administration calls the detainees "unlawful combatants".

    FBI visit

    Mr Mueller began a tour of the camp immediately upon arrival.

    "He wanted to visit our people on the ground there and to touch base with other agency representatives," said FBI spokeswoman Debbie Weierman.

    The spokeswoman confirmed that FBI officials have been among investigators interviewing detainees.

    Mr Mueller warned only on Friday that the US should still be on the alert for terrorist attack.

    "We, as a country, number one, ought to stay on high alert and understand that there are still those out there with both the capability and willingness to attack us in a variety of ways," he said in Washington.

     WATCH/LISTEN
     ON THIS STORY
    The BBC's Paul Welsh
    "The incident of the turban... set off the whole protest"
    US Programme at Human Rights Watch's Jamie Fellner
    "We should be focusing on why they are on hunger strike"
    See also:

    12 Feb 02 | Americas
    UN speaks out on Afghan detainees
    09 Feb 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
    Turkey's soul searching
    27 May 01 | Scotland
    March honours IRA hunger strikers
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