Monday, June 12, 2006
Three detainees at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have died in what appears to have been a joint suicide pact, officials said.
The inmates - two Saudis and a Yemeni - hanged themselves in their cells, according to the camp's commander.
Rear Adm Harry Harris said the suicides had been clearly a planned event and were not spontaneous.
The US holds about 460 men at the facility on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taleban.
They are the first deaths reported at the detention centre.
The men were found unresponsive and not breathing by guards, who noticed "something out of the ordinary" in the cells.
They hanged themselves with clothing and bed sheets, Rear Adm Harris said.
"The guard force and medical teams reacted quickly to attempt to save the detainee's life," he said, referring to the first suicide to be found.
It is not first time detainees have attempted to commit suicide since the camp was set up four years ago.
Forty-one attempts have been made by 25 prisoners since then.
Rear Adm Harris said he did not believe the men had killed themselves out of despair.
"They are smart. They are creative, they are committed," he said, quoted by Reuters.
"They have no regard for life, either ours or their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of ...warfare waged against us."
Some detainees have been involved in on and off hunger strikes since last August to protest at their continued detention and conditions, although according to authorities the number dropped to 18 last weekend from a high of 131.
A spokesman for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair described the suicide as a "sad incident", adding that everyone should wait for the results of an investigation before making further comment.
Mr Blair has in the past described Guantanamo as "an anomaly that has to end".
Human rights group condemned the suicides, which William Goodman, of the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights called "sad and unnecessary deaths".
Mr Goodman, who defends some of the Guantanamo prisoners, told Reuters news agency the incident was "the latest result of the policies of this administration, which seek to deny justice, fairness and due process to these men".
On Friday, US President George W Bush responded to growing calls for the prison to be shut down, by saying: "We would like to end the Guantanamo - we'd like it to be empty."
"There are some that, if put out on the streets, would create grave harm to American citizens and other citizens of the world. And, therefore, I believe they ought to be tried in courts here in the United States," he added.