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Teens among detainees at base in Cuba, U.S. says

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau

The U.S. military began bringing detainees from Afghanistan to the base in January 2002.
The U.S. military began bringing detainees from Afghanistan to the base in January 2002.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Three of the 660 detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are teenagers, U.S. military authorities said Wednesday.

Apprehended in Afghanistan, the teenagers joined other detainees at the U.S. base at the beginning of the year, officials said. The teens range in age from 13 to 15.

U.S. authorities were not aware they were teenagers until after medical examinations, according to Army Lt. Col. Barry Johnson. The teens are being held in a separate facility for their own security, Johnson said.

They also are undergoing special mental health counseling, U.S. officials said. As with other detainees at Guantanamo Bay, the teenagers' home countries and the International Committee of the Red Cross have been notified, officials said. The names of the nations are being withheld.

All three are being questioned to obtain possible intelligence, Johnson said. He indicated that they will be screened to determine whether they are a threat. He also said that there is no automatic assumption they will be released because of their age.

The U.S. military began bringing detainees from Afghanistan to the base in January 2002 and held them at a temporary facility called Camp X-Ray. A second detention area called Camp Delta was built for the detainees and first occupied last April.

Those held are suspected terrorists or suspected supporters of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that was ousted as part of U.S. action after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

So far, 23 detainees have been returned to their home countries after it was determined they were no longer a threat, U.S. officials said.

Military officials Wednesday also provided an update on earlier reports of attempted suicides at the base. About 20 detainees are being housed in a special acute mental health care unit after they repeatedly attempted suicide, officials said.

Military sources said many suffered from mental illness even before they were detained.

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