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Riot at Guantanamo Bay detention camp

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A detainee is escorted to a medium security facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

Inmates at Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba have attacked guards with fan blades and other makeshift weapons. Rear Admiral Harry Harris, the commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo says some detainees were injured in "the most violent outbreak" at the facility since it was opened in 2002.

Officers fired rubber bullets at the detainees after the guards were attacked with "broken light fixtures, fan blades" and other improvised weapons. Rear Admiral Harris says, "minimum force was used to quell the disturbance".

The New York Times reports that a riot-control unit with batons and shields quelled Thursday’s disturbance. Another episode involved two other groups of inmates who tore apart their quarters and attacked guards.

Military officials said the detainees' actions were designed to draw attention to the plight of the terror suspects detained indefinitely in "Gitmo". Rear Admiral Harris, said that a prisoner was pretending to hang himself to lure the guards into the room. "The detainees had slickened the floor of their block with faeces, urine and soapy water in an attempt to trick the guards," he said. "They then assaulted the guards with broken light fixtures, fan blades and bits of metal."

The guards used pepper spray and blasted the detainees with several shots from a shotgun, firing rubber balls during the five-minute fight. No guards were hurt, but six inmates were treated for "minor injuries," he said.

Colonel Mike Bumgarner said guards shot five rounds of "nonlethal" pellets from a 12-gauge shotgun, and a rubber grenade from an M-203 launcher. He said rioting then broke out in two other blocks of Camp Four when around 50 detainees damaged their quarters and made weapons to attack the guards. Colonel Bumgarner said it took an hour to bring the disturbances under control. He says the six detainees received minor injuries.

A military spokesman said 60 of the detainees were later transferred to more secure areas of the camp. Colonel Bumgarner says "detainees were jumping out of the beds on top of the guards" and some guards were knocked to the floor. "Frankly we were losing the fight at that point," he said. "This illustrates to me the dangerous nature of the men we have detained here," Rear Admiral Harris told reporters in a teleconference.

M203 grenade launcher

Earlier in the day, two other detainees attempted suicide by overdosing on hoarded prescription drugs. Guantanamo officials said there have been 41 suicide attempts by 25 detainees and no deaths since the camp opened in January 2002. Defense lawyers contend the figure is higher.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Committee Against Torture has called on the United States to shut down Guantanamo and close any other "secret prisons" it operates. The UN declared the indefinite detention of suspects without charge a "violation of the UN Convention Against Torture."

"The State party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close this detention facility, permit access by the detainees to judicial process or release them as soon as possible," the committee said. They called on the US to "ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention facility under its de facto effective control".

Sources