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Senators Visit Guantanamo Bay as Hunger Strike Grows

Senators Visit Guantanamo Bay Prison as a Hunger Strike Grows
Captives who won't eat and are considered at risk are given up-to twice daily feedings of nutritional shakes, often while strapped into a restraint chair shown in this March 21, 2013 display at the prison camps' hospital at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay. Photographer: Carol Rosenberg/Miami Herald/MCT via Getty Images

Two senators joined President Barack Obama’s chief of staff on a visit to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today as a prisoner hunger strike continues to grow.

Arizona Senator John McCain, a Republican, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, traveled to the prison camp with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, a White House spokesman said.

The senators and McDonough were “going to take a look firsthand at the conditions there” and will “gather some information to take the next steps that are necessary to finally close the prison,” spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Obama last month renewed his first-term pledge to close the prison that was created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hold accused and suspected terrorists. Congress has resisted efforts to transfer prisoners to other sites, although Feinstein and McCain have supported efforts to close the prison.

The camp holds 166 prisoners, of whom 104 are considered to be on a hunger strike and 41 were being force-fed as of today, according to Army Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House, a prison spokesman.

The number of hunger strikers has risen since March, when as few as 14 prisoners were refusing to eat and eight were being force-fed, according to figures provided by House.

“We continue to believe that it is in our national interest to end detention at Guantanamo, with a safe and orderly transition of the detainees to other locations,” the senators and McDonough said in a joint statement following their visit. “We intend to work, with a plan by Congress and the administration together, to take the steps necessary to make that happen.”

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