- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan Taliban and al Qaeda detainees at a U.S. base in southern Afghanistan celebrated Eid al-Adha, the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice, with sweets and dishes of lamb served by their captors, the military said yesterday.
The Muslim holiday feast was organized by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which prepared the lamb and presided over a prayer before the meal Friday. It was approved by U.S. forces, who say they are treating prisoners under the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions.
"This is how detainees should be treated … it's part of our responsibility," said Maj. Al Bazzinotti, 39, of Dedham, Mass. "We also didn't cut off their hair or their beards because civilized people follow a principled and responsible line of treatment."
The Geneva Conventions require that prisoners of war be allowed to practice their religion. The Bush administration says the detainees do not qualify as prisoners of war but that it is treating them in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
The United States has been criticized by other countries and by human rights groups over its treatment of detainees.
Critics have charged that suspected Taliban and al Qaeda members taken to a U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in January may have been mistreated; they arrived with shaved heads, in shackles and wearing goggles and orange jumpsuits.
But U.S. troops in Kandahar have provided the detainees with specially prepared meals in accordance with their religion and allowed them opportunities to pray daily.
"It's certainly not something that we had to do, but it was the right thing to do," Lt. Col. Keith Warman, commander of the detention facility at Kandahar airport, said of the Eid al-Adha meal, which he did not attend.
The holiday commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son at God's request. Satisfied with Abraham's devotion, God replaced the son with a sheep, which was slaughtered instead.
Some of the captives observed a traditional fast on Thursday. They were given sweets at sunrise Friday and dinner in the afternoon. Chaplain Capt. Brian Reck served platters of lamb and onions to the detainees.
"The detainees were excited and thanked us many times for allowing them to celebrate the holiday," he said.
The Red Cross, which regularly meets with the detained to discuss their treatment, approached the military about the celebration last week.
"We felt that the celebration didn't affect operational security," said Capt. Mark Danner, 28, of Orangeburg, S.C. "The celebration was us putting our action where our mouth is, and the biggest thing gained is that America can be seen a respecter of religions and identities."
About 174 detainees are being held at the high-walled compound on the coalition base at the Kandahar airport and at Bagram air base, outside the capital Kabul. Approximately 300 detainees are being held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.
Meanwhile, Muslims among U.S. and other foreign soldiers in Kandahar attended an Eid al-Adha prayer service at a mosque near the runway at Kandahar airport and slaughtered a sheep at an event hosted by Jordanian troops.
The mosque pocked with bullet holes from 20 years of war, with parts of its roof blown off was checked for unexploded ordnance and cleaned by Jordanians for Friday prayers.
During the service, Imam Faisal Rana, an American of Middle Eastern descent from Burke, Va., said, "Allah will forgive you all of your minor sins." The then soldiers prostrated themselves in prayer.


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