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4 Guatanamo Prisoners Attempt Suicide in One Day

Times Staff Writer

Four terrorism suspects at the sprawling prison network here attempted suicide Thursday, and detainees at a camp for the most compliant prisoners attacked guards with improvised weapons when the guards tried to rescue a man attempting to hang himself, a spokesman for the U.S. military-run prison said.

The disturbance at Camp 4, a communal facility housing 175 prisoners, followed three overdose attempts earlier in the day at Camp 1, where about 180 detainees live in metal mesh cages.

Those involved in the disturbance were moved to maximum-security confinement, said Navy Cmdr. Robert Durand, public affairs director for the prison and interrogation network.

Neither the identities nor the nationalities of the prisoners were disclosed.

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“When the guard force entered the [Camp 4] compound to intervene and save the life of the detainee, some detainees attempted to prevent them from rescuing the detainee by using fans, light fixtures and other items as improvised weapons,” Durand said.

“Minimum force was used to quell the disturbance and prevent the suicide.”

As many as 10 detainees participated in the incident.

It was unclear why the men sought to take their lives simultaneously or on this specific day.

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Several “distinguished visitors” have toured the prison network this week, including a four-star general, an FBI official and several prominent attorneys seeking to represent prisoners in U.S. court challenges, and international media are here to report on war-crimes tribunal proceedings.

“At this point, I have no idea of the motive, no idea of any coordination and no idea of any intended message,” Durand said.

Two of the four men who attempted suicide were hospitalized and under observation, he said.

In a statement announcing the first two attempts to overdose on hoarded prescription medication, Durand said that there had been 39 suicide attempts at Guantanamo by 23 detainees since the prison opened in 2002.

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“A single detainee accounts for 12 of the 39 attempts,” he said, apparently referring to Juma al Dosari, a 31-year-old Bahraini whose lawyer said he tried to kill himself in March by ripping out stitches from a previously self-inflicted wound.

Durand’s figures fall far short of the number of previous incidents officials called “self-harm events” and “hanging gestures.”

In 2003, there were 350 such attempts, according to the public affairs officer for the military’s Southern Command at the time, Army Col. David McWilliams.

In a single week that year, 23 prisoners tried to hang themselves with nooses fashioned from ripped sheets.

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The number of suicide attempts dropped to 110 in 2004, Southern Command reported.

Military authorities haven’t disclosed last year’s figure.

On Wednesday, the commander of the prison hospital, who declined to be identified beyond his rank as a Navy captain, confirmed that three detainees continue to refuse to eat and are force-fed through a nasal-gastric tube each day.

A mass hunger strike last autumn at one point involved about 130 prisoners until camp medics intervened with force-feedings.

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