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Some Taleban, al-Qaida Detainees 'Want to Hurt Us' Says US Military - 2002-02-09


Taleban and al-Qaida detainees are being scrutinized and interrogated at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Only a select few American servicemen and U.S. officials have direct contact with the prisoners. VOA's Michael Bowman recently returned from Guantanamo, where he spoke with a Muslim chaplain and two translators about the captives in Camp X-ray.

A U.S. Navy Muslim chaplain, Lt. Abuhena Saiful-Islam, visits with the detainees at Camp X-ray every day. Based on his interactions with them, he says many do not appear to grasp the full horror of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington that launched America to war in Afghanistan.

Others, he says, have begun to reflect on their actions while in Afghanistan and, as he puts it, "where they went wrong." Asked if any detainees are showing signs of remorse, the chaplain says, "Yes."

"They say they do not want to fight America. They want a resolution [of their situation] whatever way it turns out to be. And some of them believe they are innocent, and they want to go home," he says.

But not everyone shares that view. Wesam Kamhia is a Syrian-born U.S. Marine serving as a translator for Arabic-speaking detainees at Camp X-ray. The Lance Corporal says he sees no sign of reflection, introspection or remorse on the part of the captives - and that many look at him with hatred in their eyes.

"Some of them call me 'brother' or something like that, and ask me what is going on," he explains. " But some of them look at me like a traitor since I speak the language and I have this uniform on."

U.S. officials say some detainees give the impression they are sizing up security measures at Camp X-Ray, with the possible intention of one day mounting a revolt or attempting to harm the guards assigned to the open-air facility.

Another Arabic-speaking U.S. serviceman who has translated for the detainees, U.S. Air Force Lt. Don Hale, says he believes the captives are dangerous men.

"There are some bad guys in there. There are some guys that I am sure participated - not necessarily in the attacks of 9/11 but in attacks on America, and they want to hurt us," he says.

U.S. officials insist the detainees are not tortured or subject to any cruel treatment during interrogation sessions. In fact, they say some interrogators go out of their way to make the captives feel comfortable, hoping to coax information from them in an easy-going fashion.

Lance Corporal Wesam Kanhia says, personally, he finds it difficult to tell whether the detainees are telling the truth or not. But he says he has gotten positive feedback from some detainees about their treatment and the day-to-day conditions at Camp X-ray.

"Some of them have said they like it here [at Camp X-ray]," he says. "They do, actually, like the meals here. Some of them said they have never been fed like this [so well]. Sometimes they ask for their local kind of food, like rice or a loaf of bread."

The lance corporal says some detainees have asked for newspapers and magazines to keep up on current events. He says others have asked about opportunities for exercise, adding that one captive asked if he could run around Cam X-ray to stretch his legs. The request was denied.

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