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Protests

Guantanamo Bay prisoners clash with guards amid hunger strike

Guards at Guantanamo Bay prison have clashed with inmates after they tried to relocate them to individual cells. The prisoners have been on hunger strike for three months over their indefinite detention and conditions.

Violence broke out Monday during a raid on prisoner cells at the US base in Cuba, also known as GTMO, when troops tried to relocate some of them from a communal section of the facility.

The inmates used makeshift weapons, including broomsticks, to keep guards from moving them away from the part of the prison known as Camp 6, said Navy Captain Robert Durand, a military spokesman. The guards responded by firing four "less-than-lethal rounds," he said in a written statement.

Durand said there were "no serious injuries to guards or detainees" from the rounds, which included a modified shotgun shell that fires small rubber pellets.

"I know for sure that one detainee was hit but the injuries were minor, just some bruises," said Army Colonel Greg Julian, a spokesman for Miami-based US Southern Command, which oversees the prison.

The Guantanamo Bay prison houses scores of prisoners captured during America's "War on Terror." Many of the inmates have been incarcerated for around a decade and the majority have yet to be charged with a crime.

Forced relocation

The relocation from communal cells into isolation was being done "to ensure the health and security" of the prisoners, Durand said, adding that individual confinement allows officials to "observe them more closely."

The move was also in response to the prisoners' covering or obscuring of "surveillance cameras, windows and glass partitions," Durand said.

Camp 6 previously had been the section of the prison reserved for detainees who followed prison rules.

Lawyers representing the prisoners said they began a hunger strike on February 6 in protest against their indefinite detention and what they believed were tighter restrictions and intrusive searches of their Korans.

"It's just another example of force being used in GTMO, instead of a sense of human rights," military lawyer Lieutenant Colonel Barry Wingard told the AFP news agency. "The sad thing is that it doesn't appear to matter which political party is in power in Washington. The officials in GTMO always resort to force over common sense."

The prisoners had offered to give up their Korans, but prison officials refused, considering it a tacit admission of wrongdoing.

The inmates' attorneys say most of Camp 6's 130 prisoners are on hunger strike, but US authorities have put that number at around three dozen.

dr/ch (AP, AFP)