| A detainee is escorted to his cell at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay. (Reuters)
Washington, June 12 (Reuters): The suicides of three Arab detainees at Guantanamo ignited new calls yesterday for the US to shut down the prison camp but an American diplomat called their hangings a “good PR move” to gain attention.
Two Saudis and a Yemeni hanged themselves with clothes and bed sheets in maximum security cells on Saturday ' the first prisoners to die at Guantanamo since the US began sending suspected al Qaida and Taliban captives there in 2002.
Colleen Graffy, US deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the BBC World Service the suicides were a “good PR move to draw attention”.
“It does sound that this is part of a strategy in that they don’t value their own life and they certainly don’t value ours and they use suicide bombings as a tactic to further their Jihadi cause,” she said.
Graffy coordinates efforts with Karen Hughes, a former top aide to President George W. Bush who is now a special envoy charged with trying to improve the US image abroad, especially in Islamic countries.
Prisoner advocates blamed the Bush administration for the deaths and said the men were held under conditions that “for all intents and purposes had already taken their lives”. Several countries urged Washington to shut the camp down.
“Their blood is on the hands of the Bush regime and their deaths will fuel the anger of the global Muslim community,” said Cageprisoners.com, a web site that draws attention to the cases of detained Muslims.
Saudi Arabia’s interior ministry identified the two Saudis as Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani but gave no further details. Pentagon documents show Zahrani was 21, meaning he was sent to Guantanamo as a teenager.
The Pentagon confirmed the identity of the two Saudis and said al-Otaibi had been recommended for transfer to another country. Commander J.D. Gordon identified the Yemeni detainee as Ali Abdullah Ahmed. He described all three as “dangerous enemy combatants”.
Britain, Germany and Denmark joined a chorus of rights groups that have long expressed outrage at the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and urged Washington to close it.