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2 Holidays Marked at Guantanamo

November 28, 2003|From Associated Press

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba — Thousands of U.S. troops at this remote, bleak prison camp celebrated Thanksgiving after terrorism suspects got extra rations of baklava to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Base commander Capt. Leslie J. McCoy piloted a Navy helicopter to deliver hot turkey Thursday to guards at observation posts on the fence line separating the U.S. base from communist Cuba.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the officer in charge of the detention mission, dined with troops for a special meal that included turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie.

"It's difficult to be deployed away from your family, home and loved ones on Thanksgiving, but we're doing the business of the nation," Miller said. "We'll do our very best to make the day special."

Meanwhile, about 660 prisoners from 44 countries accused of being linked to Afghanistan's fallen Taliban regime or the Al Qaeda terrorism network marked their second Eid al-Fitr holiday in captivity.

The three-day feast marks the end of the Ramadan month of fasting. The prisoners received a special meal Wednesday of lentils, baklava, dates and chicken stew but on Thursday were given a regular meal.

The Guantanamo mission has come under increased scrutiny as three former base workers -- two Arabic translators and a Muslim chaplain -- face charges ranging from espionage to adultery, and human rights groups have complained that many of the prisoners have been held for almost two years with little prospect of trial or release.

More than 20 men have tried to commit suicide and some have staged rolling hunger strikes to protest the indefinite detention.

Three juveniles, ages 13 to 15, were supposed to have been released months ago but are still held in separate quarters. Others, ages 16 to 17, are mixed in with the adult prison population, Miller said.

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