The U.S. military on Saturday said no Guantánamo captives had quit their months-old hunger strike, reporting that 106 prisoners were refusing meals — and Navy medical forces put 45 of them on a list for forced-feedings.
Army Maj. Gordon Campbell, a deputy prison spokesman, said an earlier report that two captives had voluntarily resumed eating was in error.
The figure of hunger strikers has only risen since the military acknowledged the protest in March.
Commanders say Navy medical staff use a calculus of missed meals and weight loss to decide when to count a captive as a hunger striker. On the flipside, a hunger striker has to voluntarily eat a number of meals in a row to get off the list.
Lawyers for the detainees say the protest erupted after a Feb. 6-7 search of their cells; the prisoners perceived that the guards had disrespected their Qurans.
The chief prison camp spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, said the protest began a month later after a false report by the Taliban and that Guantánamo’s guards treat Islam’s holy book respectfully. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, who has oversight of the prison, said the captives were “devastated” that, after pledging to close the prison in Cuba, President Barack Obama appeared to retreat from that vow.
No prisoners have abandoned their fasts, Campbell said. He attributed earlier reports of a reduction to a numerical “mix up.”
The figures remained steady days before Monday evening’s start of Ramadan when Muslims traditionally fast by day and have festive meals at night. The Pentagon said in a court filing this week it will continue to force-feed hunger strikers to prevent any from dying of starvation, but planned to do it after sunset and before dawn barring “any unforeseen emergency or operational issues” in consideration of the day-time fasting holy month.