Prisoners wielding improvised weapons attacked military guards trying to save a detainee pretending to commit suicide at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the base commander said Friday.
U.S. guards were lured Thursday evening into a dorm-like room at a minimum-security wing of the detention center by a detainee pretending to prepare to hang himself, said Navy Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr.
The guards sought to save the detainee but were pounced on by about 10 others wielding broken light fixtures, fan blades and pieces of metal. To trip up the guards, detainees "slickened" the floor with a combination of feces, urine, and soapy water.
As guards and detainees engaged in hand-to-hand fighting, nearly 100 U.S. military personnel responded to an all-hands call for help in case a larger riot broke out, Harris said during a news conference.
The detainees were eventually subdued, and six were treated for “minor injuries,” he said, adding that no guards were hurt.
Two detainees in other sections of the prison, where suspected Taliban and al-Qaida supporters are kept, overdosed Thursday on medicines they had been hoarding and were unconscious but stable Friday at a base hospital, Harris said.
Attack coincides with prisoner transfer
The attempted suicides and clash occurred on the same day the military transferred 15 Saudi detainees to their country, leaving about 460 prisoners at Guantanamo. It was unclear if the disturbances were related to the transfers.
The detainees who took part in the clash with guards were moved to higher-security sections.
The medium-security Camp Four, where the clash occurred, houses detainees in dorm-style rooms that hold up to 10 people. Camp Four is for the most compliant prisoners and those who are slated for release.
Those who attempted suicide received medical treatment, the military said. Their names were not released, and military officials declined to speculate about possible motives.
This was the second reported simultaneous suicide attempt at Guantanamo, which holds detainees suspected of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban. The U.S. military said 23 detainees carried out a coordinated effort to hang or strangle themselves in 2003 during a weeklong protest in the secretive camp in Cuba.
There have been previous reports of protests and more minor disturbances at the detention center, including incidents in which detainees hurled urine and other bodily fluids at guards or banged on cell doors for hours at a time. A hunger strike that began in August has involved up to 131 detainees but now has dwindled to a handful.
Word of the clash came as a U.N. panel that monitors compliance with the world’s anti-torture treaty called on the United States to close the prison.
Previous suicide attempts
There have been 39 suicide attempts at Guantanamo since the prison opened in January 2002, the military said. At least 12 were by Juma’a Mohammed al-Dossary, a 32-year-old from Bahrain.
Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, an attorney for al-Dossary’s, said he visited his client last week and saw scars on his throat and the back of his neck from his most recent attempt in March.
Colangelo-Bryan, whose New York-based law firm, Dorsey and Whitney LLP, represents three detainees from Bahrain, said he did not know if any of his clients were involved in Thursday’s incident.
The lawyer said the suicides reflect the desperation of detainees held for more than four years with no idea when, or if, they will be released.
“Under these circumstances, it’s hardly surprising that people become desperate and hopeless enough to attempt suicide,” he said.