Guantánamo hunger strike reaches 63 -- 38 percent

More than a third of the war-on-terror captives are now considered hunger strikers, with 15 of them being force fed and four hospitalized, the U.S. military said Friday, reporting a significant spike since the majority of prisoners were put under lockdown.

U.S. Army Capt. Malisa Hamper, a prison camps spokesman, said 63 of the 166 captives had missed enough meals or become malnourished enough to meet the detention center definition of a hunger striker.

Also Thursday, the detention center’s Muslim-American cultural advisor defended the decision to raid a communal prison and forcibly move into single-cell lockdown some 60 or so captives. The detainees had weeks before covered up most of the prison’s surveillance cameras and kept largely out of view of their U.S. Army guards, the military said, stirring fears that some were planning to commit suicide.

“They wanted to die of hunger and thirst behind the hidden cameras,” said the Pentagon employee who allows himself to be identified only by his first name, Zak.

Before Saturday’s raid, the Pentagon prison reported that it considered 43 captives to be hunger strikers, had none in the hospital and 13 on tube feedings. But the figure has been rising as the 100-member Navy medical staff continues to assess the captives who on Saturday were stripped of most of their belongings and confined to austere, single-occupancy cells.

“Maybe by the end of the week it will reach 100” captives counted as hunger strikers, Zak said. He described one particular former communal captive, who by Pentagon rules he could not name, as “almost dying because of hunger and thirst.”

The prison’s public affairs officer, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, had no immediate comment on the description; he has said none of the hunger strikers had life-threatening conditions.

Zak offered a gloomy picture of frustration bordering on desperation among captives at the camps, particularly among men who were cleared for transfer by review boards during the administrations of both President Bush and President Obama but are blocked for release by political instability in their native Yemen. “The detainees lost hope,” Zak said, adding that a single transfer of a captive could turn the mood around.

The Obama administration has been individually notifying attorneys for those detainees who are being tube fed.

Related stories from Miami Herald