GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL STATION, Cuba (AP) -- Twenty war prisoners from Afghanistan were crossing the globe Friday from frozen Central Asia to tropical eastern Cuba, where U.S. troops awaited their flight under extraordinarily tight security.
Upon their arrival at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, the group of alleged al-Qaida and Taliban fighters were to be whisked away for a 20-minute ferry ride to their detention camp, where they were to be photographed, fingerprinted and issued bright orange jumpsuits, Navy spokesman Lt. Bill Salvin said.
At the so-called Camp X-ray, the prisoners will be isolated in temporary, individual cells with walls of chain-link fence and metal roofs, where they will sleep on mats under halogen floodlights. The camp is surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers.
"We're going to get them to X-ray as quickly as possible," Salvin said.
In light of bloody uprisings staged by other al-Qaida and Taliban captives, the detainees are being held under extraordinary security.
During security drills Thursday, handcuffed U.S. troops struggled mightily as fellow servicemen marched them to waiting cells in rehearsals.
Authorities tightened security at the base Thursday night to prepare for prisoners, declining to discuss details.
The 20 prisoners left the U.S. Marine base at Kandahar International Airport in southern Afghanistan earlier Thursday wearing hoods. They were to have been chained to their seats in the Air Force C-17, possibly sedated, and be fed by their guards, according to USA Today and television reports.
The New York Times reported that the flight was expected to make one stop before landing in Cuba on Friday.
"There are among these prisoners people who are perfectly willing to kill themselves and kill other people," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said in Washington. He said those overseeing the transfer have been told to use "appropriate restraint."
The Pentagon barred news organizations from transmitting pictures taken as the prisoners boarded the plane. When the prisoners arrive in Cuba, journalists were told, there also will be no photographs or video allowed. Authorities at the base gave no reason, but the Geneva Convention says prisoners of war must be protected "against insults and public curiosity."
Military officials told reporters they wouldn't even be allowed to bring tape recorders to record the sound of the plane landing.
The international human rights group Amnesty International expressed concern about the detention and transport methods, saying the plan to house detainees in "cages" would "fall below minimum standards for humane treatment."
The size of the temporary cells -- about 6 feet by 8 feet -- also is smaller than "that considered acceptable under U.S. standards for ordinary prisoners," the London-based group said Thursday.
U.S. officials insist the prisoners are being treated humanely, and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Thursday their living conditions would be better than in Afghanistan where many were hiding in caves. The Red Cross and other groups will monitor conditions.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.