About 75 detainees have been staging a new wave of hunger strike since last weekend in the prison of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, U.S. media reported Tuesday.
Robert Durand, the U.S. commander at Guantanamo, was quoted as saying that the hunger strike is a "short term, sympathy" protest to gain attention from the outside world in advance of the June 12 resumption of war-crimes trial proceedings there.
He said the protest "reflects detainee attempts to elicit media attention to bring international pressure on the United States to release them back to the battlefield."
According to U.S. definition, a hunger strike refers to a detainee refuses nine meals in a row, which means the 75 detainees began fasting overnight last Thursday.
The U.S. military did not disclose the names of hunger strikers, nor their nationalities, but said the 10 men facing war-crimes trials are not among them.
Food has frequently been the subject of a struggle for international legitimacy of the Guantanamo prison, where the United States holds about 460 detainees on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
The U.S. military has emphasized from the opening of the prison camps in January 2002 that captives are well fed, and given Islamic-approved halal meals in keeping with a cultural sensitivity.
Still, detainees have staged on-again, off-again fasts since the earliest days of the detention center.
Human rights groups said the hunger strikes reflect the growing frustrations of the detainees, many of whom are being held indefinitely without a trial.
Many in the international community, including the United Nations and U.S. allies, have been urging the United States to close the prison for the concerns of the conditions of the detainees.