GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- A hunger strike by prisoners at this remote U.S. naval base seemed to lose momentum after the U.S. military agreed to allow the Taliban and al-Qaeda captives to wear turbans, as long as guards could inspect them at any time.
Of the 300 terror suspects detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, 85 refused to eat breakfast Saturday, military officials said. That number was up from about 75 at lunch and dinner Friday but down from the peak of the hunger strike Thursday, when 194 prisoners declined lunch.
The protest began Wednesday after guards removed a makeshift turban from a praying captive's head. Military officials had previously banned turbans because they might be used to hide weapons.
It was unclear whether some prisoners have been fasting since Wednesday or whether different inmates have skipped meals at different times.
The military says the prisoners are fighters of the international al-Qaida terrorist network, believed responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, and the deposed Afghan Taliban regime that harbored it. Some have been held at the base in southeastern Cuba since Jan. 11.
Detainees told officials the hunger strike was in response to two guards stripping a detainee of his turban during prayers Tuesday after the inmate ignored orders to remove it, Marine Maj. Stephen Cox said. He added that detainees have been issued prayer caps or can drape towels over their heads.
The policy change on head coverings seemed to have little impact on those who continued their hunger strike Friday.
Two inmates were taken to the camp infirmary Friday and treated for dehydration through intravenous drips, officials said. One ate and was taken back to his cell. The other refused to eat and remained in the infirmary.
"We're certainly not going to allow them to harm themselves or starve," said Marine Capt. Alan Crouch, a spokesman for the detention mission.
Even those declining food appear to be drinking water, said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Carter, another spokesman.
In an address to prisoners Thursday night by Brig. Gen. Mike Lehnert, the Marine in charge of the detention mission, indicated there might be more to the hunger strike.
"He told them at this point he could not tell them how long they will be here or what will happen to them in the future," Cox said.
"Gen. Lehnert also told the detainees that they will be judged fairly" when the time comes, Cox said.
The new policy "was explained to the detainees, and they've talked back and forth to the commanders and the chaplain several times ... and we are hoping it will ease the tension," Air Force Brig. Gen. John Rosa, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staffs, said Friday at the Pentagon.
Friday afternoon, Camp X-ray was quiet, with detainees passing the time as usual -- pacing in their chain-link cells, sitting or lying down.
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