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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Triple Suicide Ignites Calls for Guantanamo Closure

WASHINGTON -- The suicides of three Arab detainees at Guantanamo ignited new calls on Sunday for the United States to shut down the prison camp but a U.S. diplomat called their hangings a "good PR move" to gain attention.

Two Saudis and a Yemeni hanged themselves with clothes and bed sheets in maximum security cells on Saturday -- the first prisoners to die at Guantanamo since the United States began sending suspected al-Qaida and Taliban captives there in 2002.

Prisoner advocates blamed U.S. President George W. Bush's administration for the deaths and said the men were held under conditions that "for all intents and purposes had already taken their lives." Several countries urged Washington to close the camp.

A Yemeni rights group, the National Organization for Defending Rights and Freedoms, said it could not accept U.S. accounts of the deaths without an impartial, international probe.

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry identified the two Saudis as Manei al-Otaibi and Yasser al-Zahrani but gave no further details. Pentagon documents show Zahrani was 21, meaning he was sent to Guantanamo as a teenager.

The Pentagon confirmed the identity of the two Saudis and said al-Otaibi had been recommended for transfer to another country. U.S. Commander J.D. Gordon identified the Yemeni detainee as Ali Abdullah Ahmed. He called all three "dangerous enemy combatants."

The prison at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, holds about 460 foreigners captured during the U.S.-led war to oust al-Qaida from Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Colleen Graffy, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told the BBC the suicides were a "good PR move to draw attention."

"It does sound that this is part of a strategy in that they don't value their own life and they certainly don't value ours and they use suicide bombings as a tactic to further their Jihadi cause," she said.

In Kuwait, Waleed al-Tabtabaie, a former member of the parliament, called the deaths "a big question mark over America's human rights record" and said the United States should release the prisoners or give them fair trials.

"Things should not stay as is at this prison. This would be a black spot in the history of humanity, especially from a country that claims to be modern and that claims to uphold human rights and democracy," Tabtabaie said.

Britain, Germany and Denmark joined a chorus of rights groups that have long expressed outrage at the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and urged Washington to close it.

"If it is perfectly legal and there is nothing going wrong there, why don't they have it in America?" Britain's constitutional affairs minister, Harriet Harman, asked on BBC television.