An unidentified detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba who had been on a hunger strike earlier this year died over the weekend after guards at the U.S. detention facility found him unconscious in his cell. The detainee's name and country of origin are being withheld by the U.S. military until after notifications are made to his family and home government.
U.S. Southern Command announced in a press release issued Monday that during routine checks on Saturday afternoon at the facility, where terror suspects have been held since 2002, Joint Task Force-Guantanamo guards "found the Detainee unconscious and unresponsive."
The guards immediately performed first aid on the detainee and Navy corpsmen were called to assist with the lifesaving efforts. The detainee was then transported to the hospital at the Navy base in Guantanamo where "after extensive lifesaving measures had been performed the detainee was pronounced dead by a physician."
While not able to identify the detainee by name, a spokesperson for JTF-Guantanamo said he was not one of the high-profile detainees currently being tried by the military commissions at Guantanamo. That list includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other detainees accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.
Since the camp was opened in early 2002 eight other detainees have died while in custody -- six from suicides and the other two from natural causes. The most recent death was in 2011. The detainee's death means there are now 167 detainees at the camp, which at its height held 779 detainees.
The unidentified detainee was one of several at the camp who have been participating in hunger strikes that have been going on at the detention facility for years.
The detainee had ended his hunger strike on June 1 and had recouped 95 percent of his body weight. Hunger strikers at the camp are routinely force fed by medical personnel. A Defense official says that the hunger strikes are more of a political act than a physical act as many take their liquid nutrient feeds willingly and assist medical personnel with the insertion of the food tubes that force-feed them.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has initiated an investigation of the incident to determine the cause and manner surrounding the death and an autopsy will be performed.
The Southern Command release says the remains of the deceased detainee are being treated with respect for Islamic culture and traditions. Following the autopsy the remains will be repatriated to his home country.