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Gitmo's prisoners include Christians

©Associated Press
February 13, 2002

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Some of the detainees at this American base are not Muslim but Christian, U.S. military officials say, describing inmates as members of a "global community" who in some cases may be sympathetic to groups other than the Taliban or al-Qaida.

"I personally did not expect . . . some of the nations that are represented in Camp X-Ray," Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for the joint task force in charge of the detention camp, said Tuesday.

Since the first prisoners arrived from Afghanistan just over a month ago, the number of nationalities represented has risen from a handful to at least 26, with a dozen or more languages and dialects spoken.

The military is holding 254 men at the naval base in eastern Cuba. A handful of translators flown in to help interrogate the detainees and convey their needs has expanded to about two dozen linguists.

U.S. officials have not named all the countries of origin, citing security concerns and requests from governments.

"If I could release the 26 countries that have been affected by the al-Qaida, some of those countries may be shocking to people -- the languages, the various backgrounds," Costello said. He added, "There is a global community out at Camp X-Ray."

The majority are Muslim, but there are Christians among them, Costello said.

Another spokesman, Maj. Stephen Cox, said earlier that there were "other religions" in addition to the Muslim faith, implying that there are at least three represented at Camp X-ray.

In the most detailed breakdown, a senior Pentagon official said last week that when there were 158 detainees at the camp, they included about 50 Saudis, about 30 Yemenis, about 25 Pakistanis, eight Algerians, three Britons and small numbers from Egypt, Australia, France, Russia, Belgium, Sweden and other countries.

Denmark said Tuesday that a Danish citizen was among the 34 detainees who arrived Monday. The foreign ministry said it received the news through the International Red Cross, which had visited the suspect in Afghanistan. It said that Denmark has requested U.S. permission to visit him as soon as possible.

The hastily built temporary detention camp now has 320 cells.

"The inn is almost full," said Army Col. Terry Carrico. The military has asked Congress for approval to build a semi-permanent prison that could have up to 2,500 cells.

Investigators are interrogating prisoners at all hours but are frustrated by the lack of information about the detainees themselves. Costello echoed other military officials who said detainees often change their stories.

On Sunday, a U.S. military official said the number of detainees at Camp X-Ray whose allegiance had not been established was larger than the number determined to be members of the Taliban or al-Qaida members.

Some of the men may belong to groups other than the Taliban or al-Qaida, officials said.

Officials said investigators working in Kandahar have selected prisoners for Guantanamo based on their potential value as intelligence sources, leaving the most intensive questioning in the hands of investigators here.

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