Guantanamo Bay hunger strikers at 100, U.S. says

In this Oct. 9, 2007 file photo, Guantanamo guards keep watch over a cell block with detainees in Camp 6 maximum-security facility, at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba. AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Updated 11:22 PM ET

As of Saturday, the U.S. military counts 100 hunger strikers at its war-on-terror detention camp at the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Of these men refusing food, 20 of them have lost enough weight to be force fed - strapped to a chair with a tube down their nose and throat sending liquid nutrients (Ensure) into their stomachs. Five of the hunger strikers have been moved to the base hospital.

"The detainees in the hospital do not currently have any life-threatening conditions," said Lt. Col. Samuel House, a base spokesman.

House told CBS News earlier this week that a number of Navy doctors, nurses and psychological technicians were en route to Guantanamo to help cope with the three-month-old hunger strike.

The number of hunger strikers, by the military's tally, is fast approaching two-thirds of the 166 detainees at Guantanamo and has doubled since the military conducted a recent violent raid to restore order on the detention center's most populous and previously most communal camp, Camp Six. Rubber bullets were fired to disperse detainees and then a lockdown was imposed, confining Camp Six detainees to solitary cells most of the day or moving half of the 130 men once there to the more restrictive Camp Five.

Military spokesmen at Guantanamo previously told CBS News the raid was not intended to break the mass hunger strike but to remove obstructions placed by detainees on surveillance cameras that prevented guards from monitoring activity inside the camp.

Detainee attorneys say the hunger strike started in early February as a protest over guards confiscating personal items and searching their Korans as well as desperation over indefinite detention without charges for more than a decade. Only six "high value" detainees currently face military commission charges, either for the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States or the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen.

At least 86 remaining detainees have been approved by U.S. national security agencies for transfer from Guantanamo, but no detainees have been freed since 2010. In January, the Obama administration eliminated the position of a State Department envoy overseeing repatriation, and the administration has yet to launch promised periodic review boards comprised of State, Justice and Defense Department personnel to review detainee cases.

Detainee Younous Chekkouri, 44, a hunger-striking Moroccan who was approved for transfer in 2010, according to a Justice Department list unsealed by a federal court last year, has described the April 13 pre-dawn raid in a phone call to his attorneys from Reprieve, a British human rights organization.

"The guards came in, closed all of our cells...[removed us from our cells and] told us to get on the ground," Chekkouri said, according to notes of the conversation provided to CBS News. "We lay there on our belly for three hours or more."

Chekkouri told his attorneys the guards removed whatever was covering the security cameras in every cell and all of their belongings as "punishment." "They took everything," he said. "Cells empty, nothing left."

Later, the detainees received blankets, Chekkouri said. He described the guards' use of force and firing of rubber bullets as "very scary."

A base spokesman has said five detainees and two guards were slightly injured in the confrontation, as some detainees resisted with improvised weapons such as water bottles filled with recreation yard stones and parts of broom sticks.

Chekkouri has been at Guantanamo since 2002 and never charged with a crime.

"What has happened here now is real nightmare. Nobody dreamed that what has happened would happen," he said.

  • Phil Hirschkorn

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