WASHINGTON – A prolonged hunger strike by more than 100 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, appeared to be coming to an end Friday after military officials reported that almost all had started eating again.
The military said in a statement that 99 of the 102 inmates listed as being on hunger strike had eaten a hot meal in the previous 24 hours.
Lt. Col. Samuel House, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said he did not know what prompted the change. He added that they were not officially considered to have ended their protest as the military requires a minimum caloric intake over several days. “I cannot speculate on what their intent is,” he said. “In my mind, it is not over.”
The hunger strike, which began in February, has grown into a protest at what the prisoners see as President Barack Obama’s abandonment of his policy to close the military detention center. In May, Obama gave a major speech in which he pledged to renew efforts to begin transferring out some of the 166 detainees held at Guantanamo and ultimately close the facility.
During the past week, in a sign that the strike may be winding down, rather than simply pausing, the number of inmates living in communal quarters had significantly increased “from 40 up to 100,” House said. Camp authorities have made it a condition of living in such areas that detainees do not go on hunger strike.
“If an individual detainee chooses to hunger-strike, for their own safety they are moved back into single cell,” House said.
Although many have eaten a meal in the past 24 hours, 45 remain on a list of those who were being force-fed. Those detainees are strapped to a chair twice a day and fed a liquid nutritional supplement through a nasal tube that leads to their stomach.
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