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Guantanamo Inmate Database: Kakai Khan

McClatchy Newspapers
by Tom Lasseter
June 15, 2008

GARDEZ, Afghanistan — At times, Kakai Khan thought he'd gone completely mad.

Sitting in his cell at Guantanamo, reciting Quranic verses over and over, he'd try to bring order back into his life, to make the world around him make sense again.

Before he was captured in Gardez, his life as a livestock trader in his 30s had been ordinary, he said: a little violence in the community now and then, small-time dealings with the Taliban and years marked by the passing of the seasons and Islamic fasts.

Then, in 2003, the soldiers came. A group of Americans arrested Khan in his home about 10 minutes outside Gardez and took him to a nearby base.

The interrogators there asked him about a lot of names. Khan said he didn't know any of them. This, he said, made the interrogators angry. They said he was involved with the bombings of two video shops in a market, that he was a die-hard Taliban fighter who'd attacked U.S. troops.

He denied all of it. This, too, made the interrogators angry.

He slept in a line of blindfolded men on the ground outside. He said he got no food for three days.

"When we moved, they kicked us," he said. "When we talked with others around us, they shouted, 'Shut up,' and kicked us."

There were more interrogations at the prison camp at Bagram Air Base, where he was told, again, that he'd helped bomb a pair of video stores as part of a Taliban campaign to reassert themselves in the Gardez area.

"They took me to interrogation many times; I don't remember how many times. They beat me a lot during interrogations," he said. "They had dogs with their jaws tied shut, and they let them jump at me. They would kick me; they would punch me."

Khan said he was terrified, but he continued to say that he was innocent.

He was, a senior Afghan intelligence official with detailed knowledge of Khan's case told McClatchy. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to talk to reporters.

While Khan knew some Taliban members, and from time to time passed tidbits of information to them, he wasn't involved in their operations, as was initially thought, the official said.

"There were two explosions in a market, and we had information that . . . the people who carried out the bombings stayed at his house," the official said. "But that proved not to be true."

The interrogators at Bagram didn't know that, however. Each time Khan proclaimed his innocence, telling the American soldiers they'd gotten a bad tip, the worse the treatment got, he said.

"One of the punishments during interrogation (at Bagram) was that they would take me to a room next door, and two soldiers would lift me in the air and shackle my hands to the ceiling; my feet could not touch the ground," Khan said. "I don't know how long I was up there; I would lose consciousness."

Several months later, Khan was taken to a bathroom, and his head and beard were shaved. He and 17 other men were piled into a truck with their feet and hands shackled and sacks on their heads.

The flight to Guantanamo was long. Men urinated on themselves. The smell of feces hung over them.

Khan said he screamed as loud as he could for someone to loosen the straps around him. He felt as if he couldn't breathe, as if he were going to suffocate.

"I couldn't feel anything; I was awake but unconscious; I didn't know what was happening," he said.

He was sent to isolation for his first month at Guantanamo. The guards were always banging on the door at night, Khan said, yelling for him to wake up. He barely slept for the first three weeks.

After a doctor came to examine him, Khan was sent for a month to a cellblock for detainees with mental problems.

When he was released to a regular cell, life there seemed even less sane than it had been in the psychiatric wing.

The guards shouted at the detainees as they prayed. The detainees called the guards over, and "when they came, we threw water on them, we spit on them, we pissed on them."

A brawl inevitably ensued, and the detainees were dragged off to solitary confinement, where they were stripped to their underwear and left in small rooms where the air conditioning was turned up high, then low, leaving them to shiver, then sweat.

In all, Khan estimated that he was sent to isolation about 15 times — for 15 days to four months at a time — during his three years at Guantanamo.

Some trips were bearable. Others left him a wreck.

He usually could tell how badly he was doing after a stint in isolation by how the men in the cells around him reacted when he returned.

"I would have conversations with (the man) who was in the cell next to me," Khan said. "And sometimes he would say, you do not understand what you're saying; it makes no sense."

Nothing at Guantanamo ever did, Khan said.

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