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Guantanamo prisoner dies after exercising: U.S. military

Laundry hangs in the sun at the Guantanamo detention centre.

Anna Mehler Paperny

An Afghan prisoner collapsed and died at the Guantanamo detention centre after working out on an exercise machine, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

Awal Malim Gul, who was accused of being a Taliban commander and al-Qaeda associate, died at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base on Tuesday evening, the U.S. military's Southern Command said.

Mr. Gul, 48, had been using an elliptical trainer, a stationary exercise machine used to simulate stair-climbing or running. A legal source said he collapsed while exercising but the military said he collapsed in the shower afterward.

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"Other detainees in his cell block then assisted Gul to the guard station for medical attention," the military said in a news release. "The guards immediately alerted medical personnel, who upon arriving at the cell block found him unresponsive."

Mr. Gul was taken to the medical bay inside the camp where he lived and then transferred to the base hospital but could not be revived, the military said.

Mr. Gul had been held without charge at Guantanamo since October 2002. He is the seventh captive to die there since the detention centre opened on the U.S. navy base in January 2002.

One other died of natural causes -- colon cancer -- and five died of apparent suicide.

The camp has held nearly 800 foreign captives since the United States invaded Afghanistan to oust al-Qaeda's Taliban protectors after the hijacked plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. It still holds 172 prisoners.

Mr. Gul's body will be repatriated after an autopsy is conducted to determine the cause of death, the military said.

"The remains of the deceased detainee are being treated with the utmost respect. A Muslim chaplain is assisting the Joint Task Force to ensure that the remains are handled in a culturally sensitive and religiously appropriate manner," the military said.

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The Naval Criminal Investigative Service has begun an investigation of the death, which is standard procedure, the military statement said.

Mr. Gul was captured in Afghanistan in February 2002 and sent to Guantanamo eight months later.

The U.S. military said he commanded a Taliban supply base in Jalalabad and later commanded a unit that fought in Kabul against the Northern Alliance, the Afghan militia allied with U.S. forces.

"Gul also admitted to meeting with Osama bin Laden and providing him with operational assistance on several occasions," the U.S. military said.

Mr. Gul lived in Camp 6, which is modelled after a modern U.S. civilian prisons. Captives live in individual cells ringed around a communal living area.

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