Thirty more detainees headed to base in Cuba
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A U.S. cargo plane left Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Sunday night to bring another 30 detainees to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The detainees were loaded aboard an Air Force C-17 transport under heavy guard. A Cobra gunship hovered overhead and attack dogs guarded the tarmac as the detainees boarded the plane about 8 p.m. (10:30 a.m. EST).
Sunday's departure of detainees took place without incident, unlike Thursday's departure, which saw sniper fire erupt around the time the flight was taking off.
"Tonight, we moved thirty detainees in a joint effort with army military police and our airport security forces. We all feel it was pretty routine," said Capt. David Young. "We had spent a long time practicing and rehearsing for it before we came here, and it went off faultlessly without a hitch."
Prior to the plane's departure, U.S. Marine Humvees patrolled the airport perimeter, where the sniper fire had erupted Thursday.
Sunday's detainees -- dressed in orange jumpsuits and caps and wearing goggles covered with black tape that obscured their vision -- were led to the plane in single file by heavily armed Marine and Army guards. Inside the plane, the manacled detainees sat back-to-back with guards seated facing them.
They will join 20 Taliban and al Qaeda captives who arrived Friday at Guantanamo Bay. The detainees are being housed outside in 6-by-8-foot chain-link cells until a detention facility is completed.
The Pentagon has classified the captured Taliban and al Qaeda fighters as detainees rather than prisoners of war. On Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. officials consider them unlawful combatants with no rights under the Geneva Convention -- but he said they would be treated in a manner "reasonably consistent" with those accords.
U.S. authorities said they hope to learn more about the remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda from the detainees.
Jim Steinberg, a former deputy national security adviser during the Clinton administration, said moving the detainees to Guantanamo Bay also sets an example.
"They would like to show that there is a price to pay for the kinds of activities that these people engaged in, but most importantly, they want to keep some bad actors off the street right now," Steinberg said. "They think that these are some of the more serious perpetrators involved in both the Taliban and the terrorist organizations."
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