Guantanamo Detainee Apparently Commits Suicide, U.S. Military Says

Associated Press
Wednesday, June 3, 2009

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, June 2 -- A Yemeni detainee at Guantanamo Bay has died of an apparent suicide, U.S. military officials announced Tuesday.

The Joint Task Force that runs the U.S. prison in Cuba said guards found Muhammad Ahmad Abdallah Salih unresponsive and not breathing in his cell Monday night.

His is the fifth apparent suicide, and the first in two years, at the Guantanamo prison, which President Obama plans to close by January.

The Yemeni prisoner, also known as Mohammad Ahmed Abdullah Saleh Al-Hanashi, had been held without charge at Guantanamo since February 2002. Military records show the alleged Taliban fighter was about 31.

The suicide occurred late Monday, but it was not revealed by the military until after a dozen journalists who were covering a military tribunal session left the base near midday Tuesday. A Defense Department official said the reason was that the Yemen government had not yet been notified.

About 100 of the 240 prisoners at Guantanamo are from Yemen, more than from any other nation. Some Yemenis at Guantanamo have been approved for release from the prison for several years, but they are in limbo because the United States is unwilling to release prisoners to Yemen, for fear that the weak central government there will be unable to monitor and control them.

The prisoner appears to have joined the long-running hunger strike at Guantanamo, according to medical records previously released by the military. His weight was down to about 86 pounds in December 2005. He weighed 124 pounds when he was taken to Guantanamo.

A prison spokesman, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, declined to discuss how the Yemeni man apparently committed suicide, or whether procedures have changed at the prison as a result of the apparent suicide.

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