Guantanamo Detainees to Shelter From Hurricane, Officials Say
iStock/Thinkstock(GUANTANAMO BAY) — Hurricane Matthew may be the most powerful storm to make landfall in a decade when it hits Cuba Tuesday, but the dozens of detainees remaining at the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay won’t be in danger of making an escape, officials say.
“We’ve taken steps to protect our personnel there and to keep the 61 detainees safe and secure,” Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesperson, told ABC News. “There are plenty of places there where they can be sheltered in place and kept secure.”
Davis declined to specify how the detainees the U.S. says are affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Taliban will be secured in a storm with gusts already up to 165 mph, but said “there’s plenty of solid, secure shelter in place where they can be kept while they’re there.”
Among those still held at the controversial detention facility, which is located in a part of southeastern Cuba the U.S. leases from the communist regime in Havana, are Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is the admitted operational mastermind of 9/11, as well as four other alleged al-Qaeda lieutenants awaiting trial for the attacks 15 years ago.
But even the most hardened terrorists accustomed to being held in individual cells at Gitmo could be moved into Cold War-era bunkers built to withstand a nuclear blast, where they will be grouped together to ride out the storm, explained another official familiar with operations, who asked not to be identified. The official indicated he was wary of mixing some of the men believed to be the most dangerous in the facility with the rest of the population.
“People are forced to share spaces, not just the good guys,” the official said. “Some don’t do well in groups.”
A spokesperson at U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the American base in the hurricane’s path, said the detainees will be safe from the storm, safe from each other and in no danger of escaping should Matthew inflict heavy damage as its bears down on Cuba.
“Task force detention facilities can withstand the current projected storm strength and the detainees will shelter in place. If the storm should intensify, there is a plan to move the detainees to alternate shelters,” said Col. Lisa Garcia, the spokesperson. “Due to security reasons, I’m not at liberty to disclose details about the alternate shelter plan for detainees under our care and custody, other than to confirm the alternate shelter is capable of withstanding major-category hurricane-force winds.”
Sunday some 700 spouses and children of U.S. military personnel at Guantanamo Bay were transported by the Navy to Pensacola, Florida, to ride out the storm there.
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