U.S. military officials say Friday's transfer of 20 Taleban and al-Qaida prisoners to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba went smoothly and without incident. The detainees have been processed at a temporary holding camp and now must await an uncertain future.
Friday's operation was an important test, as U.S. forces completed the first transfer of prisoners from Afghanistan halfway around the globe. Hundreds more could follow in the weeks ahead.
The detainees were masked and shackled for the 27-hour journey. Upon arrival at Guantanamo Bay, U.S. marines in armored vehicles surrounded the prisoners as they were led off the Air Force transport plane for processing.
At U.S. Southern Command headquarters in Miami, Florida, Operations Officer Thomas Crosson stressed extensive security preparations paid off handsomely. "Everything went off flawlessly," he said. "There were no problems with any of the movements. It took about four hours from the point when they landed until their processing was completed and they were in their units [cells]."
The prisoners received physicals from medical personnel and were allowed to shower before being assigned to small chain-link cells. A more permanent detention facility is expected to be completed at the base in coming months.
Captain Crosson said the detainees' basic needs will be met. He added the goal is to treat the prisoners humanely while assuring absolute security.
"There is a provision for them to have a certain amount of time each day for exercise," Captain Crosson went on to say. "They are fed three times a day. There are shower facilities there. Their movements are carefully planned. They are deliberate and under high security."
The names of the detainees have not been released. It is not known whether American Taleban John Walker is among them.
The exact fate of the detainees remains unclear. It is expected they will face some form of military justice, but the Bush Administration has yet to reveal any details of such a plan.