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Pentagon: Guantanamo detainee dies; ninth fatality at facility

September 10, 2012|By Carol J. Williams | This post has been corrected, as indicated below.
  • A Navy officer, center, and two Army officers enter Camp VI at the detention center at the Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A Navy officer, center, and two Army officers enter Camp VI at the detention… (Walter Michot / Miami Herald…)

The Pentagon said Monday that a prisoner died at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility on Saturday, the ninth fatality at the prison for terrorism suspects since it opened more than a decade ago.

Authorities were withholding the name, nationality and age of the detainee pending notification of his family, according to a statement issued by Joint Task Force Guantanamo at the U.S. naval base in southern Cuba. An autopsy was planned, the statement said, and there was no immediate report on the suspected cause of death.

Guards walking routine patrols of the cellblocks found the prisoner "unresponsive" and transferred him to the Navy base hospital after first aid failed to revive him at his cell, the military said. He was pronounced dead by a hospital physician "after extensive life-saving methods" had been performed, the statement said.

Two of the eight prisoners who have died were said to have succumbed to natural causes; six were suicides.

After the first three suicides in June 2006, in what was seen as a coordinated protest of unlimited detention, the military jailers at Guantanamo instituted a number of suicide-prevention policies, which at least for some months included collecting bed sheets from the cells each morning to deter prisoners from ripping them and fashioning them into nooses.

The Guantanamo detention network was opened in January 2002 to hold the first of what would eventually number nearly 800 foreign men suspected of involvement in terrorism plots. Most were released to their home countries after years of detention without charges.

No updated prisoner count was given in the report on the death Saturday, but the number is now believed to be 167, as a July 11 news release on the transfer of a detainee said 168 men remained at Guantanamo at that time.

[For the record, 4:20 p.m. Sept. 10: An earlier version of this post said eight prisoners had died at Guantanamo, including five who had committed suicide.  Actually, the latest fatality makes nine deaths, and six have committed suicide.]

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carol.williams@latimes.com

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