Many Guantanamo Bay prisoners not al Qaeda-report


The United States is holding dozens of prisoners at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who have no "meaningful connection" to al Qaeda or the Taliban, the Los Angeles Timesreported today.

Citing military sources, the paper said that many of the prisoners at the base were sent there over the objections of intelligence officers in Afghanistan who had recommended them for release.

At least 59 detainees - nearly 10 per cent of the prison population - were deemed to be of no intelligence value after repeated interrogations in Afghanistan, the paper said. It added they were all placed on "recommended for repatriation" lists well before they were transferred to Guantanamo Bay, a facility meant for hardened suspects. The United States began shipping prisoners to the base on the southeast tip of Cuba in January this year and the prison currently holds more than 600 prisoners from over 40 nations.

Washington, which does not recognize the detainees as prisoners of war but calls them enemy combatants, came under sharp criticism from rights groups and some foreign allies when it began the transfers of prisoners. Earlier this month Amnesty International urged the government to free war prisoners unless they were to be charged.

The Los Angeles Times said dozens of the detainees were Afghan and Pakistani nationals described in classified intelligence reports as farmers, taxi drivers, cobblers and labourers. Some were low-level fighters conscripted by the Taliban in the weeks before they lost power in Afghanistan.

The paper quoted sources as saying that Major General Michael E. Dunlavey, the operational commander at Guantanamo Bay until October, went to Afghanistan in the spring to complain that too many "Mickey Mouse" detainees were being sent to the facility.