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Boy praises Guantanamo jailers

BBC News
by Andrew North
February 14, 2004

An Afghan boy has told the BBC he feels no bitterness about being held in the US Guantanamo camp for terror suspects.

More than a year after being captured by US troops fighting members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda, Naqibullah, 13, is back home in eastern Afghanistan.

He spent much of his time in captivity in Camp Iguana, the children's section of the US detention centre on the tropical island of Cuba.

The teenager said he felt fine and was happy to tell his story.

He had never even been to Kabul, let alone outside Afghanistan, before he was taken prisoner by the Americans.

"I hadn't done anything, but they suspected me because I was standing next to some men who had guns," he said.

"I told them I was innocent. I don't even know how to use a gun."

'Guest treatment'

Unlike most of those in Guantanamo Bay, he was not forced to wear an orange boiler suit, or shackled and hooded.

In fact, apart from the two other boys released with him, he says he saw no other detainees. He even says he was treated like a guest of the US forces.

"We were not like prisoners there. We were not tortured. They didn't tie our hands. And they gave us education," he said.

There is no bitterness or anger, but the boy learned enough English to make this one demand of the Americans: "I want the Americans to pay me because I was not a criminal. I want them to help me become a doctor."

Life changed

After more than a year in US custody, Naqibullah is now trying to adjust to life back home in his village.

It is hard to exaggerate just what a strange and unsettling experience this has been for him, but this is perhaps not the Guantanamo Bay story you might expect.

At the mosque, Naqibullah's father, Gul Mohammed, leads prayers. His attitude shows the very different culture and mindset here.

You might think he would be angry with the Americans. Actually he thinks they have done Naqibullah a favour.

"He has learnt to speak English. He has come back with an education. He knows about things," Gul Mohammed said.

"He behaves better with his sisters and brothers, he shows me more respect, and he has been to big places like Kabul, and the rest of the world."

But it could be difficult for Naqibullah now. As I leave his village, he says: "I want to go to the city."

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