Six Hurt In Guantanamo Bay Brawl

Military personnel transport a detainee into a building within the grounds of the maximum security prison at Camp Delta 2 & 3, at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba, on April 5, 2006.
AP Photo
Prisoners with makeshift weapons battled guards trying to save a detainee pretending to commit suicide at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in what military officials said Friday was a coordinated attack that left six prisoners injured.

The clash, which came the same day two detainees attempted to commit suicide in other parts of the camp, was among the most violent incidents reported at the isolated detention center, where the U.S. holds about 460 men suspected of links to al Qaeda or the Taliban.

At the same time, rioting broke out in other cells, reports CBS News correspondent David Martin. It took about an hour to put down the uprising.

"This illustrates to me the dangerous nature of the men we have detained here," the detention center's commanding officer, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris, told reporters in describing Thursday's attack.

News of the clash came at an uncomfortable time for the United States: a U.N. panel urged the United States to close the detention center, which has become an increasing source of tension between Washington and its European allies.

But President Bush himself recently advocated, in an interview with a German TV station, emptying the prison by getting more prisoners to court, Martin reports.

"I would very much like to end Guantanamo," Mr. Bush said.

But despite what the president says, charges have been brought against only 14 of the 490 prisoners — and those cases are in limbo until the Supreme Court rules whether the inmates can be tried by military tribunals.

"Splitting hairs on what is or is not international law misses the point: the protests and suicide attempts reflect the desperation of detainees who may or may not be guilty of terrorism," said CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.

Defense lawyers said the suicide attempts reflect increasing despair among detainees, most of whom have been held for more than four years without charges. Only 14 have been charged.

"Under these circumstances, it's hardly surprising that people become desperate and hopeless enough to attempt suicide," said Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, an attorney for a detainee from Bahrain who has repeatedly tried to kill himself.

The most recent turmoil at the detention center perched above the Caribbean on a U.S. Navy base in southeastern Cuba began Thursday morning when a detainee who failed to show up for morning prayers was found unconscious in his cell, Harris said.

Tests indicated he had taken an overdose of drugs similar to the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. He was hospitalized in serious but stable condition.

Early in the afternoon, guards searching the prison for contraband prescription medicine found another detainee "frothing at the mouth" from an overdose of drugs. He was also hospitalized in stable condition, the admiral said.

In the early evening, guards spotted a detainee in Camp Four — a medium security, communal-living unit for the "most compliant" prisoners — appearing to get ready to hang himself with a bed sheet tied to the ceiling of the room he shared with nine detainees.

The apparent suicide attempt "was a ruse to get the guards to enter the compound," Harris said.

Detainees had smeared floor with feces and soapy water to make responders slip and fall, CBS News reports. Prisoners attacked 10 members of Guantanamo's quick-reaction force with fan blades, pieces of metal and broken light fixtures, said Army Col. Michael Bumgarner, a camp official.