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Tensions Ease at Camp X-Ray - 2002-03-01

The Pentagon says tensions are easing at Camp X-ray, the detention facility for Taleban and al-Qaida prisoners at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Nearly two-thirds of the Camp's 300 detainees launched a hunger strike this week after guards removed a makeshift turban from a prisoner who was praying.

Defense officials have now agreed the detainees can cover their heads during prayer, but insist guards have a right to check them for security reasons. That appears to have eased tensions and the number of protesters has declined sharply.

Air Force Brigadier General John Rosa of the Pentagon's Joint Staff said the protest came as no surprise. He told reporters Friday the larger question nagging at the detainees is what their fate will be. "This doesn't surprise us," he said. "It's the normal evolution in a detainee's life. Many of them, the first group, got there seven weeks ago, so they are going through the shock and amazement of being some place that they're not familiar with, and now they're starting to settle in. I think the real issue is, what's their fate? What happens to them?"

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has indicated several options are under consideration for the detainees - including trial, release and possibly indefinite imprisonment.

Military officials have meanwhile confirmed that two dehydrated detainees were placed on intravenous drips.

Chief Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke declinee to say, however, how far the military will go if a detainee were, for example, to continue a hunger strike and faced starvation. "Our policy is to make sure they get very, very appropriate and adequate care, and we will make sure they get that kind of care. I think it is going too far down the road right now, hypothetical, to talk about medical intervention," she said.

The United States is holding 300 Taleban and al-Qaida detainees at the base in Cuba. More than 200 others are in U.S. custody in Afghanistan.