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U.S. Will Expand Cuba Jail for More Terrorist Suspects

July 26, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — With captures of terrorist suspects expected to keep mounting, the U.S. military is planning to build more cells at its high-security prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, defense officials said Thursday.

The permanent jail at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, the main military facility for holding and interrogating suspects, is nearly full, with 564 suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners from the campaign in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

The Pentagon has accepted bids and expects to award a contract within days for construction of 200 more units at the 600-cell facility, known as Camp Delta, the officials said Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The military also has about 80 detainees at a base in Bagram, Afghanistan, some of whom it would like to transfer to Cuba. An unknown number of others are held by U.S. forces in undisclosed locations, and still undisclosed others are under the control of the CIA and foreign governments, defense officials said.

The Cuba facility--as well as the administration's holding of prisoners without charges or access to lawyers--has drawn criticism from human rights and civil rights groups. The government declines to categorize those being held as prisoners of war with attending rights, saying they're not legitimate combatants as defined under international treaty.

Though most gains recently announced by U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan have been in uncovering weapons rather than people, officials expect to keep rooting out Taliban and Al Qaeda in the 9-month-old campaign.

Estimates of those still in pockets of resistance in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan range from hundreds to thousands, Brig. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr. said at a Pentagon news conference Wednesday.

"You know, lately it's been a lot of small pockets of them," said Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke.

Nonetheless, Clarke said, "they exist, and we're going to continue to go after them."

Though the new construction at Camp Delta would mean space for more than 800 people, officials previously have said they may expand the prison to eventually hold 2,000.

But there also was some hope the United States might not have to take long-term responsibility for large numbers of prisoners.

Officials have said some might be sent home for prosecution by their own governments, others put before new U.S. military tribunals and some held indefinitely.

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