Nearly 100 Guantanamo inmates on hunger strike

More prisoners have joined a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention at the US-run Guantanamo military prison, with 97 out of 166 detainees refusing food, a spokesman said Friday.

Among the strikers, 19 have been given feeding tubes, and five of those are hospitalized but do not have life-threatening conditions, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House said in a statement.

The rapidly growing protest movement began on February 6, lawyers for the detainees said. Prison authorities began releasing figures on the strike on March 11, saying nine inmates were participating.

Lawyers for the detainees say the official numbers are too low and that around 130 inmates are observing the hunger strike.

The strikers are protesting their incarceration without charge or trial at Guantanamo in the 11 years since the prison went into use for terror suspects detained in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The hunger strikes began when inmates claimed prison officials searched their copies of the Koran for contraband. Officials have denied any mishandling of Islam's holy book.

"The illegal detentions without charge or trial at Guantanamo Bay have gone on for more than a decade with no end in sight, so it's not surprising that detainees feel desperate," said Laura Pitter, counterterrorism advisor at Human Rights Watch.

"The Obama administration simply has to do more to end this unlawful practice that will forever be a black mark on US history," she added.