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Shackled detainees arrive in Guantanamo

Buses line up outside the C-141 plane that brought the detainees to Cuba.  

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (CNN) -- Twenty Afghan war detainees arrived here Friday and were led off a C-141 transport plane in shackles by U.S. military personnel.

The prisoners -- the military prefers to call them detainees -- will be held at first in outdoor cells with concrete floors and wooden ceilings surrounded by a chain-link fence until a more permanent facility is ready.

A bus with about 40 Marines, Navy medics and security personnel wearing face masks and Kevlar vests met the aircraft carrying the detainees who left Kandahar, Afghanistan, the previous day.

Humvees and troops with grenade launchers and machine guns formed a security perimeter around the area.

The Taliban and al Qaeda captives stepped off the plane one by one, dressed in turquoise blue face masks, orange ski caps and fluorescent orange jumpsuits, their hands in manacles.

As U.S. military personnel frisked each detainee, some resisted, falling to their knees before being picked up by their necks.

Following the deplaning, the detainees were loaded onto a bus and then a ferry that took them to Camp X-Ray, where a detention center is being constructed on the U.S. naval base.

Hundreds of captured al Qaeda and Taliban fighters are expected to be housed at a specially designed facility at a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. CNN's Bob Franken reports (January 11)

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CNN's Mark Potter looks at the history of the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and its latest role in housing al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners (January 10)

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They will be photographed, fingerprinted and interrogated before being led to individual 6-foot-by-8-foot outdoor cages -- their temporary home until the center is completed.

All the detainees were being treated as if they were prisoners of war, although the Pentagon has not declared them as POWs under the Geneva Convention.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Friday the captives were considered "unlawful combatants" and have no rights under the convention.

"We do plan to, for the most part, treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions, to the extent they are appropriate, and that is exactly what we have been doing," Rumsfeld said.

The detainees were chained to their seats for the 8,000-mile plane trip and even barred from using the toilets, with special provisions being made so they would not have to get up. They were shaved from head to toe for hygiene considerations.

Some of those held at Guantanamo Bay likely will face a military tribunal, a prospect that has generated criticism from civil rights advocates.

The humanitarian group Amnesty International issued a statement Thursday afternoon objecting to the heavy restraints on the prisoners during the flight.

"Reports that al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners may be drugged, hooded and shackled during the 20-hour flight is worrying," the group said.

"If restraints are necessary, they must be applied humanely, with adequate opportunity for the prisoner to move limbs, use the bathroom and eat and drink."

Rumsfeld said Friday the prisoners' rights were not violated and that only one was sedated during the trip to Guantanamo. Pentagon officials said the restraints on the prisoners were justified.

"These are people that would gnaw through hydraulic lines in the back of a C-17 to bring it down," said Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "So these are very, very dangerous people, and that's how they're being treated."

The Guantanamo base can currently house 100 prisoners but soon will accommodate 2,000. In 1994, tens of thousands of Cuban and Haitian migrants were held at the base after being picked up while trying to sail to Florida.

The United States occupied Guantanamo Bay, discovered by the Europeans in 1494, during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and established a base there.

In 1903, the United States leased the land from the Republic of Cuba. Under the agreement now in effect, the United States can retain possession as long as it pays the annual rent.


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