Three prisoners off themselves at Gitmo

The official U.S. line for three prisoners killing themselves at Gitmo is that they did it as "a form of protest."

James Risen and Tim Golden report in The New York Times:

Three detainees being held at the United States military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, committed suicide early on Saturday, the first deaths of detainees to be reported at the military prison since it opened in early 2002, United States military officials said.

The deaths come at a time of mounting international criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of terrorism suspects at Guantánamo and other prisons around the world. President Bush, who was at Camp David on Saturday, expressed "serious concern" about the deaths, said Tony Snow, the White House spokesman.

The three detainees were not identified, but United States officials said two were from Saudi Arabia and the third was from Yemen. Military officials said that the three hanged themselves in their cells with nooses made of sheets and clothing and died before they could be revived by medical personnel.

Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the commander of the detention camp at Guantánamo, told reporters in a news conference that the deaths were discovered early on Saturday when a guard noticed something out of the ordinary in a cell and found that a prisoner had hanged himself. Admiral Harris said guards and a medical team rushed in to try to save the inmate’s life but were unsuccessful. Then, guards found two other detainees in nearby cells had hanged themselves as well; all were pronounced dead by a physician.

Military officials on Saturday suggested that the three suicides were a form of a coordinated protest.

"They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," Admiral Harris said. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has opened an investigation into the deaths, and the State Department has notified the governments of Saudi Arabia and Yemen, according to a statement issued on Saturday by the United States Southern Command, the military organization that oversees Guantánamo.