Officials trying to sort out affiliations of Guantanamo detainees; change of command imminent - - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - |

Officials trying to sort out affiliations of Guantanamo detainees; change of command imminent


GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) _ Interrogators pressed ahead with interviews of captives accused of links to terrorist groups as the general in charge of the detention mission at this U.S. base on Saturday announced an upcoming change of command.

Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert said that after weeks of interrogations, U.S. officials still do not know the affiliations of some of the detainees here _ though he said that number is shrinking.

``Initially it was a large group but the group is getting smaller and smaller,'' said Lehnert, who is in charge of detention at Camp X-ray, the makeshift jail at the Guantanamo base where 300 men are being held.

He spoke a day after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the Pentagon has finished writing rules for the military tribunals that may be used to try detainees accused of having ties to al-Qaida or the Taliban.

As construction crews cleared a site for Camp Delta, a permanent detention facility that is to replace Camp X-ray by mid-April, Lehnert said hundreds in the task force overseeing the mission would be replaced in the coming weeks, including himself.

Lehnert, who did not name his replacement, said the change in command was expected and did not represent a policy change.

On Friday, Lehnert told captives he could do nothing to speed their release. U.S. military officials have said uncertainty about their fate was the main reason for a hunger strike by some detainees in recent weeks.

``Nothing you or I can do will either delay or speed action of those who will determine your future,'' Lehnert told the men, some of whom have been at the outpost since January.

The hunger strike fizzled last week, when the last of three detainees men who had refused food for about two weeks began eating again, but Lehnert said Saturday that some were still refusing some of their meals.

U.S. officials have said the detainees come from more than 30 countries. In comments published Saturday, Egypt acknowledged for the first time that some of its citizens are among the detainees.

``Egyptian elements are in the hands of the American authorities (at Guantanamo Bay),'' the pro-government daily Al-Ahram quoted Egyptian Interior Minister Habib el-Adly as saying. ``They are from the fleeing terrorist elements belonging to the al-Qaida network and had worked with Osama bin Laden.''

Also Saturday, Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller said a Danish man captured in Afghanistan and detained at Camp X-ray was ``doing just fine.'' He spoke after a delegation of Danish diplomats and security police visited the camp to check on the man, who was brought here on Feb. 8. His name was not released.
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