More detainees arrive at Guantanamo as investigators pursue their affiliations

Tuesday, February 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba (AP) _ Investigators were trying to pin down which Afghan war captives fought for the Taliban and which belonged to al-Qaida as 34 new arrivals received blankets, toothbrushes and Qurans for their indefinite stay at this remote Navy base.

Monday's new arrivals brought the camp's total to 254 detainees. Eight of the 34 were put into increased security postures shortly after they arrived but there were no major incidents, Marine Corps Public Affairs officer Maj. Stephen Cox said.

The men normally stand with their feet and hands shackled. The increased security posture forces the detainees onto their sides with their knees to their chests. Talking or not responding to orders after three tries can prompt officials to force the position, Cox said.

None of the new arrivals appeared to have any injuries or health problems besides dehydration, Cox said.

Civilian and military investigators have been questioning prisoners since Jan. 23. A Muslim cleric brought to the camp said not all the detainees are Muslim.

``There is more than one religion there,'' said Bangladesh-born Lt. Abuhena Saiful-Islam, who refused to elaborate on what other religions were represented. ``That's what they're claiming.''

Camp officials say many detainees have been interviewed as many as four times, each time providing a different name and different information. They say it's premature to assume most prisoners were from al-Qaida, the terror network led by Osama bin Laden and believed responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Cox said the detainees are from 26 different countries. They include about 50 Saudis, 30 Yemenis, 25 Pakistanis, eight Algerians, three Britons and small numbers from Australia, Belgium, Egypt, France, Russia and Sweden.

Afghans, who formed the ousted Taliban regime that harbored al-Qaida while ruling Afghanistan, have not been mentioned as part of the lot.

Cox said Sunday there were more prisoners whose affiliations were ``in limbo'' than there were those claiming to be Taliban and al-Qaida.

Also Monday, four Cuban refugees apparently swam to the U.S. base in southeastern Cuba, officials said. A clerk at the base's bachelor quarters said the men were wearing only soaking wet shorts.

Cuban refugees arriving here generally are repatriated.