U.S. to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday the United States plans to transfer the al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners it now holds to the U.S. naval base at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"We are making preparations to hold detainees there," Rumsfeld said. "It wouldn't be ready for a number of weeks to handle the kinds of people that we would very likely place there."
Pentagon officials earlier said that a "warning order" was issued to Guantanamo Bay officials telling them to be prepared to receive prisoners. The order told them to construct facilities to receive as many as several hundred detainees, but officials said they doubt that many will be sent there.
The U.S. military has 45 prisoners in custody -- 37 of them at the airport in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and another eight, including an American and an Australian, aboard the USS Peleliu in the north Arabian Sea. Prisoners in U.S. custody could face military tribunals.
Rumsfeld said no preparations have been made to hold tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay base, which he said was the "least worst place we could have selected" to hold the prisoners. It is not clear where such tribunals might be held.
Without offering any specifics, he said the base has disadvantages but was the best of all the alternatives considered.
"We don't expect any trouble with Mr. Castro," he said, referring to Fidel Castro, Cuba's communist leader and longtime U.S. adversary. The United States has had a naval base at Guantanamo Bay since 1903.
Twenty prisoners arrived at Kandahar Wednesday night on board a C-130 aircraft. Pentagon officials said they had been detained by Pakistan and many were believed to be Yemenis. All of the detainees continue to be questioned by U.S. military and law enforcement officials.
It is estimated that there are nearly 7,000 detainees being held by anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
It is not known how many of those the United States might be interested in taking into custody, but plans are being developed for detention facilities outside Afghanistan where large numbers of prisoners could be held.
Besides the Guantanamo base, other detention sites being considered include U.S. ships at sea.
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