MIAMI — The number of hungers strikers has more than doubled since the U.S. military put most prisoners under lockdown at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo, the military said Wednesday, reporting that it now classified 92 of the captives as hunger strikers and was force feeding 17 of them.
Two were getting tube feedings at the prison camps hospital, said Army Lt. Col. Samuel House, but neither “currently have any life-threatening conditions.”
Defense lawyers for some detainees have insisted that about 130 of the 166 captives joined in the hunger strike two months ago, and accused the military of refusing to acknowledge it.
House, acting prison camps spokesman, released the figures in a short email from the prison that noted the medical forces’ tally jumped from 84 captives on hunger strike Monday.
House said two captives who were hospitalized a day earlier were returned to their cells and were not sent to other lockups at the sprawling prison camps compound, which has a psychiatric unit.
The military reported the hunger strike figure at 43 before soldiers stormed inside Guantanamo showcase communal prison April 13 and put nearly every captive at the prison camps complex under lockdown.
The military won’t name the men on hunger strike.
But the Justice Department has notified attorneys of those being tube fed.
They include two Yemenis in their 30s: Samir Mukbel, whose attorney helped him tell his story recently in a column published in The New York Times, and Yasin Ismael, whose lawyer David Remes said he was notified that has client was among those being force fed last week. Also, attorney Carlos Warner said Tuesday evening that his Kuwait client, Fayez al-Kandari, 35, was receiving forced feedings.
A spokesman at the Southern Command, which has oversight of the prison, attributed the rise in figures since the April 13 raid to a combination of troops being better able to see who is really forgoing food and anger by some captives over sudden solitary cell confinement after years of being allowed to tend for themselves.
According to the military, force feedings are carried out at Guantanamo by Navy medical staff after Army guards shackle a captive to a restraint chair.
The sailor then snakes a tube up the captive’s nose and feeds it into his stomach before pumping in a can of Ensure or other nutritional supplement. Medical staff members at Guantanamo have said in the past that the process takes about an hour and is typically done twice a day to a malnourished hunger striker.
House said the prison camps had “plenty of nutritional supplement on hand” as of Wednesday and there was no need to airlift additional supplies to the remote Navy base in southeast Cuba.