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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 16:10 GMT
US gathers terror suspects' DNA
Prisoner taken for interrogation at Guantanamo Bay
Identifying prisoners at Guantanamo is proving difficult
The US authorities have taken DNA samples from detainees in Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan in an effort to identify them correctly.

FBI Director Robert Mueller
Mueller: Expects the detainees to be charged soon

The Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, said not even the names of a number of prisoners in Afghanistan were known. He was speaking during a visit to the Camp X-Ray detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba on Sunday.

The New York Times has reported increasing frustration that many of the prisoners in Cuba remain a mystery. Interrogations are reportedly slow because the detainees only know each other by their aliases.

Tensions at Guantanamo Bay are currently high. A hunger strike there has now entered its sixth day, with 13 prisoners consistently refusing food, according to the US military.

Identification tool

Mr Mueller said that the DNA swabs would also help identify any current detainees who were later released and then involved in an act of terrorism in the future.

The FBI chief said it was too early to discuss when or if the prisoners would be charged, but added: "My expectation is that we will see those procedures in the very near future."

The US has already announced that it is seeking DNA samples from the family of top terror suspect Osama Bin Laden to check whether an al-Qaeda suspect killed in Afghanistan last month was him.

US officials told The New York Times that FBI members had proposed the creation of a DNA database of terrorism suspects.

But the proposal is likely to raise concerns among civil liberties groups.

Hunger strike

Amnesty International has already protested at the conditions under which the Camp X-Ray detainees are being held.

Preparing the IV solution for the hunger strikers
Some hunger strikers are being fed intravenously

They said the hunger protest "highlights the dangers of the legal limbo into which the prisoners have been thrown".

On Monday, 83 of the 300 prisoners refused breakfast - on Sunday night, 82 skipped dinner. The hunger strike reached a peak on Thursday, with 194 missing lunch.

But Marine Captain Joe Kloppel, a spokesman for the detention mission, said all but 13 had had at least one meal since the protest started.

Turban row

The protest was sparked by an incident on Tuesday when a detainee fashioned a turban out of a towel to wear during prayers.

Guards forcibly removed the turban when the inmate refused to remove it.

The military, alarmed that the detainees may hide weapons under turbans, have issued close-fitting caps to wear instead.

The commander of the mission, Marine Brigadier Michael Lehnert, later told the inmates they could wear the turbans but could be subject to inspection at any time.

See also:

28 Feb 02 | Americas
Guantanamo hunger strike escalates
28 Feb 02 | Americas
US seeks Bin Laden DNA
27 Feb 02 | Americas
Camp X-ray: The legal options
12 Feb 02 | Americas
UN speaks out on Afghan detainees
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