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Three guantanamo detainees commit suicide { June 12 2006 }

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Three Detainees Who Committed Suicide Are Identified

By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 12, 2006; A05

The top commander for the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, compared the three suicides there over the weekend to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in that everyday objects were turned into weapons.

Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, chief of the Southern Command, told reporters yesterday that the prisoners turned bedsheets and blankets "into means to take one's life."

The Pentagon identified the three as Saudi Arabians Mani Shaman Turki al-Habardi al-Utaybi, 30, and Yassar Talal al-Zharani, 22, and Ali Abdullah Ahmed of Yemen, who was 29 or 30.

Ahmed, the Pentagon said, was a "mid- to high-level al-Qaeda operative." It said he was "hostile" during his time at Guantanamo Bay and was a "long-term hunger striker" from late 2005 to last month.

The Pentagon identified Shaman Turki as a militant who worked as a recruiter for al-Qaeda and who had been part of Jamaat Tabligh, which it said had been banned in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s. He had been recommended for transfer to the custody of another country before his suicide, the Pentagon said. It said he would also have been under detention there.

Yassar Talal was said to have been a front-line fighter for the Taliban who was captured by Afghan forces, then in November 2001 participated in a prison uprising in Mazar-e Sharif in which Johnny "Mike" Spann, a CIA officer, was killed.

Speaking to reporters at Guantanamo Bay's Camp Delta, Craddock said that an investigation of the three deaths is underway by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Noting that "there's been a lot of attempted suicides," he said he did not know why these three succeeded early Saturday.

"I think there is disappointment because the suicides occurred," he said. "I don't think there is discouragement."

Cmdr. Robert Durand, a spokesman at Guantanamo Bay, said that the three hid their suicides by hanging laundry to block the view and also putting material in their beds to make it look as if they were asleep. He said that autopsies were completed yesterday afternoon but that no results were available.

It is not yet known where the bodies of the three will be buried. If it is necessary to inter them at Guantanamo Bay, Durand said, "We're prepared to do that" with all religious requirements observed.

The deaths come amid growing criticism of the prison, where about 450 detainees have been held for years. Last month, a U.N. panel called for the United States to close the facility.

The suicides occurred weeks after two detainees tried to kill themselves with antidepressant drugs they had gathered in their cells. Shortly after those suicide attempts on May 18, detainees at the prison rioted, attacking guards with makeshift weapons.

Until the latest incident, Defense Department officials had prided themselves on not having a single suicide, despite 41 attempts by about 25 detainees.

2006 The Washington Post Company

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