GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- Military officials said Tuesday they used appropriate force during a prison raid Saturday that hurt two guards and five inmates, which they said was aimed at stopping detainees from blocking cell cameras.
The officials defended the raid, a minutes-long sweep during an ongoing hunger strike, as necessary to restore cameras that guards use to make sure prisoners aren't harming themselves. Authorities forced prisoners from communal areas into single cells during the raid.
The officials, during a 45-minute briefing with reporters on Tuesday and during an hour-long tour of a prison camp, disclosed two suicide attempts -- one on Friday before the raid, and one on Saturday after the raid.
The officer in charge of Camp VI, who agreed only to be identified as Capt. John, told reporters that prisoners had been using sticks to poke at guards during communal settings before the raid. He described the situation as out of hand.
"I've never been in a civilian prison that looked anything like the communal here, because in a civilian facility, you’ll have some level of control,” John said as he stood in a cell block with just a few detainees locked into their cells on the upper floors. “And if they live in communal, it really is compliant, they lock down when you tell them to lock down. They move when you tell them to move. But not necessarily here.”
John said that in the communal area, guards “had no control over whether their behavior was good or bad.” John, who said he previously worked as a prison guard in Louisiana and took over the camp in January, said things had been “pretty quiet” since the raid. “They don’t like us. That’s the basic mood,” John said.
Detainees have been losing hope they'd be able to leave Guantanamo soon, officials said. Many of the detainees have been cleared for release.
"If you read the newspapers, and the detainees have access, they see the political climate … Let me take that word back. They see what's in the news media about some of their possible future stays within the Gitmo facility," said Rear Adm. John W. Smith.
When reporters visited the facility on Tuesday afternoon, guards were watching on video monitors as skinny-looking detainees either sat or lay on beds. A few detainees paced back and forth in cells. Downstairs, in the medical facility, a hollow-faced detainee was handcuffed to the bed and receiving physical therapy.
Before the tour, Navy spokesman Robert Durand showed reporters weapons confiscated after the raid, including shivs made of metal and sticks made of broom handles that had been used to clean communal cells. Officials said during the briefing that two guards were struck in the head during the raid, but were wearing helmets and suffered no serious injuries. One returned to work immediately, the other was given light duty for the day.
Five detainees were wounded. One captive, who officials said purposefully banged his head on the wall, required three sutures. Another had rubber pellets removed from his flank. One had a swollen elbow. Two had slight abrasions.
Officials said they expected the number of hunger strikers to rise from the 45 who were counted on Monday. Attorney David Remes said he was informed on Tuesday morning that guards were force-feeding his client Yasein Ismael. "I am asking you here to save the lives of your clients in Guantanamo Bay," Ismael wrote in a letter to his lawyers.
The military said on Monday that 13 of those participating in the hunger strike were being force-fed.
Guantanamo Guard Tower
Located between Guantanamo's Camp Five and Camp Six.
Guantanamo detainee received physical therapy
A skinny Guantanamo detainee receives physical therapy on Tuesday, April 16, 2013.
Empty cell block
A cell block at Guantanamo's Camp VI that had been occupied until a raid on April 13, 2013. One detainee had written "stop tortur us. stop desclate our relgion" on the wall of his cell. The officer in charge of the facility said that detainees had hoarded all types of materials in the communal area.
Guantanamo Camp VI video feeds
A Guantanamo guard looks over a video screen at Camp VI at Guantanamo in April. Detainees had blocked 147 of the prison's 160 cameras, according to a military official.
Water bottles filled with gravel were amongst the weapons officials said they confiscated from detainees after the raid in April.
Other weapons included broom sticks and shanks.
A guard checks on detainees in a sparsely populated block of Guantanamo's Camp Six in April.
Guantanamo Medical Facility
Military officials show journalists the room where some detainees were being force fed during the ongoing hunger strike at the facility.
Force Feeding chair
A restraining chair used to feed detainees at Guantanamo.
Cans of Ensure at Guantanamo
A guard displays cans of Ensure used to force feed detainees at Guantanamo.
A handprint is shown on a Camp VI cell block that was occupied by a detainee until a raid in mid-April.
A shoe from a detainee left on the now-empty cell block.
Cameras are everywhere in Guantanamo's Camp VI, even inside the shower.
The second level of an empty cell block in Camp VI as seen from below.
Camp VI Sign
A sign outside Guantanamo's Camp VI.
Guantanamo Flag At Half Staff
A flag flying over Guantanamo's Camp Six flys at half staff in honor of victims of Boston Marathon massacre.
Camp Five Guards
Guards at Camp Five stand watch during morning prayers.
Camp Five Cell Block
An empty cell block in Guantanamo's Camp Five.
Face shields intended to prevent guards from being hit in the face by "cocktails" of urine, feces and semen.
A guard hands water to a detainee on the Bravo block of Guantanamo's Camp Five.
Dead Banana Rat
A dead banana rat on the road to Guantanamo's prison facilities.
Sunrise By Guantanamo's Camp Five
Obama, Hagel On Joint Detention Group Board
President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel pictured at the headquarters of Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Joint Detention Group headquarters.