Violence erupted at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Saturday when military officials moved detainees from communal living conditions into single-cell confinement as part of a plan to stem the hunger strikes proliferating there.
Guards carried out an early morning raid to move the prisoners, and the detainees resisted with broomsticks and mop handles in an area known as Camp 6, a military spokesman, Navy Capt. Robert Durand, told the Associated Press. The guards fired back at the prisoners with four “less-than-lethal rounds,” Durand said.
Durand told the Washington Post that detainees covered cameras and windows inside Camp 6 so the military guards couldn’t monitor them, which partly prompted the decision to move them from communal living to single cells.
He said Saturday’s action was carried out “to ensure that detainees are not being coerced by other detainees to participate in the hunger strike.” Guantanamo prisoners can still fast, but medical staff will be able to monitor them, according to Durand.
No serious injuries were suffered by either side during Saturday’s clash, the U.S. Department of Defense said.
"I know for sure that one detainee was hit, but the injuries were minor, just some bruises," Army Col. Greg Julian, a military spokesman, told the AP.
The effort to move prisoners from communal living into single cells took several hours.
Durand said the move doesn’t necessarily mean that the detainees will be permanently put in solitary, provided they cooperate with prison rules. Many Guantanamo prisoners have participated in a hunger strike to protest their living conditions as well as their indeterminate stay at the U.S. prison.
“If and when the detainees demonstrate a willingness to comply with safety rules, the privilege of communal living may be reinstated,” Durand said, according to the Post.
Lawyers for some of the 166 prisoners said the hunger strike, which began in February, was staged in part because President Barack Obama pledged to shutter the controversial prison four years ago but seems to have abandoned such a move, the Post reported.
Of the 166 prisoners being detained at Guantanamo, about 120 were housed in Camp 6. They were able to watch television, eat and use recreation areas in open space with other prisoners.
Carlos Warner, an attorney for some of the detainees, criticized military officials for the action at Camp 6.
“This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing,” he told the Post. “As of last week, the strike would end if they allowed the men to surrender the Quran. Instead the military is escalating the conflict.”
The paper said detainees refused to have their Qurans if it meant military officials would search through the Muslim holy books as a security measure. Officials said they did not want to remove Qurans from Guantanamo.