Call to prayer made for detainees held in Cuba
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Navy chaplain announced the first morning call to prayer for the 158 Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, early Thursday morning.
After prayers, the chaplain -- who is a Navy lieutenant and also a Muslim cleric -- moved up and down the row of cells, making contact with the detainees, who are using some of the 400 copies of the Koran that the Pentagon said have been delivered to the base.
Officials said the detainees became excited when the call to prayer was announced. The chaplain was sent to advise senior commanders on Islamic issues and will be available to meet with detainees.
Military officials say many of the detainees have expressed concerns about getting in contact with their families. Members of the International Committee of the Red Cross have taken requests from detainees for messages to be passed to their relatives.
Several detainees are receiving extensive medical treatment. Two had surgery Wednesday, and two others had surgery Tuesday and were to undergo another round of surgery on Thursday. In all cases the men are suffering from infected gunshot wounds and bone fractures. Their wounds are being cleaned, bone fragments removed and broken bones set.
The United States has temporarily suspended the transfer of more detainees from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, in part because of lack of space. Sixty more covered but open-sided cells are expected to be finished Thursday, adding to the 160 such cells already on site. Eventually the military hopes to be able to house 1,000 detainees at the base.
A more permanent housing facility with indoor cells is expected to be built, but sources at Guantanamo say they have not yet get received the final go-ahead from the Pentagon to proceed with construction. The military estimates it could have more permanent housing for at least 400 detainees within 55 days of getting approval.
Military sources also said the Red Cross has made several recommendations to the Pentagon, some of which are being adopted. The Pentagon will not offer specifics. However, it is believed the Red Cross advised the Pentagon to put no more than one man in a cell, which led to the temporary halt in the transfers from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has also said it wants to finish equipping and staffing a mobile Navy hospital at Camp X-Ray before more critically injured detainees arrive. Surgeries are now being performed in a high-security area that has been established at Guantanamo Naval Hospital, while a small infirmary has been set up at the detention site for some minor medical treatments.
The Pentagon also has indicated it wants to finish interrogation facilities before more detainees arrive.
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