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Military: Guantanamo Bay detainee dies of apparent suicide

  • Story Highlights
  • Yemeni prisoner had been at Gitmo since February 2002
  • Mohammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih is the fifth to commit suicide, military says
  • Guards discovered him unresponsive, not breathing during a routine check
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(CNN) -- A Yemeni detainee at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay detention camp died late Monday of an apparent suicide, the U.S. military said.

The detainee, identified as Mohammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih, was also known as Al Hanashi. He had been at Guantanamo since February 2002, said a statement issued by the U.S. Southern Command.

The statement said guards discovered an unresponsive Al Hanashi, 31, during a routine check. He was not breathing.

A military pathologist will perform an autopsy before Al Hanashi's body is returned to Yemen. The military said a cultural adviser was assisting to ensure the remains are handled in "a culturally sensitive and religiously appropriate manner."

Guantanamo spokeswoman Maj. Diana Haynie said Al Hanashi did not hang himself but provided no other details about the circumstances of his death. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is conducting an investigation.

More than 200 detainees are held at the Guantanamo facility. Al Hanashi is the fifth to commit suicide, according to the military. Two Saudi Arabians and a Yemeni hung themselves with clothes and bed sheets in 2006; another Saudi killed himself in 2007.

Dozens of Guantanamo detainees have attempted suicide since Camp Delta, the permanent holding facility at Guantanamo, was opened in 2002. According to the human rights group Amnesty International, earlier this month another Yemeni man tried to slit his wrists, prompting the organization to sound alarm for his physical and psychological health.

The military says detainees are "provided safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody."

Al Hanashi traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, where he admitted fighting with the Taliban, the military statement said. It said intelligence reports indicate that he resided in four different al Qaeda and Taliban-affiliated guest houses and was captured at Mazar-e-Sharif following an uprising there.

Al Hanashi was not one of the detainees slated for release from Guantanamo, Haynie said.

Yemeni Embassy spokesman Mohammed Albasha expressed condolences to Al Hanashi's family Tuesday and said a representative is en route to Guantanamo.

Albasha said the detainee's death demonstrated the urgency to close the detention facility and that his government hopes to work closely with the White House in doing so.

President Obama, in one of his first official duties, announced that he would close the prison by January 22, 2010.

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