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Another Detainee in Guantanamo Tries to Commit Suicide - 2003-02-06

There has been yet another suicide attempt by one of the terrorist detainees held at the U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. U.S. military officials are concerned by the sudden rise in efforts by prisoners to kill themselves.

This is the fifth suicide attempt by a Guantanamo detainee in just the past three-weeks, and the 15th since the prison opened a little over a year ago.

Military officials are providing few details. But a Pentagon spokeswoman admits authorities at the high-security prison are concerned.

The spokeswoman will not say if the Pentagon believes the surge in suicide bids is an organized effort by the detainees to embarrass their American captors.

But she says there are, what she terms, "a lot of challenges" at Guantanamo. She says prison officials are monitoring the situation closely. She says both medical and security teams are stepping up their efforts to prevent further suicide attempts, as well as other actions by detainees to harm themselves intentionally.

The latest wave of attempted suicides began in mid-January when a prisoner was found hanging in his cell and cut down by guards. That case was deemed the most serious yet by authorities, who report the detainee in question remains hospitalized in serious-but-stable condition.

There are about 625 detainees held at Guantanamo. They are believed to come from more than 40 countries. Most were apprehended in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led military effort to destroy the al-Qaida terrorist network.

Various human-rights organizations have complained about the detainees' isolation as well as the uncertainty about their future.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said this week the United States is in no rush to bring the detainees to trial. Instead he says the main goal is interrogating the prisoners to get any information the men may have about terrorist activities.

Mr. Rumsfeld and others say the detainees are being treated humanely and in accordance with international conventions. They have rejected all charges that the men are tortured.