GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba – Shackled and wearing orange jumpsuits and goggles, 32 detainees arrived on this bleak outpost Wednesday — the first large group of arrivals in more than two months.
The detainees were led off the C-17 military plane as a battalion of guards and soldiers in riot gear backed by armed Humvees stood by on alert.
The detainees waddled off the plane in groups of four led by guards, who checked for contraband in their shoes, mouths and jumpsuits. Two fell to their knees as guards kicked their legs apart. It was unclear whether the men struggled first with the guards.
Journalists were allowed to watch the arrivals from about 100 yards away but were not allowed to film the event.
The arrivals bring the total number of detainees to 332 from more than 30 countries at Camp Delta, the permanent prison where they will be held until authorities decide whether to send them back to their homelands or try them for unspecified crimes in military tribunals.
"It appears we had a very smooth and efficient operation," said Maj. James Bell, a spokesman for the detention mission.
The new arrivals come as the U.S. government intensifies its interrogation process, hoping to further its search for Usama bin Laden and renegade Taliban and Al Qaeda members.
"From an interrogation seat, all the appropriate steps and measures are being taken to turn the interrogations up a notch," Capt. Riccoh Player, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an interview Tuesday.
White buses shuttled the detainees to a ferry that carried them to the seaside Camp Delta.
Until last weekend, detainees had been staying at Camp X-ray, a makeshift facility of chain-link cells where the men could see and communicate with each other. They could also shout complaints at visiting journalists who were driven around the camp perimeter.
At Camp Delta, the men have less contact with each other. Except for a window in each cell, the camp is cloaked by netting. Journalists no longer can see the inmates.
Officials think the isolation may make them talk, Player said.
Since the first prisoners arrived in January, the population has grown to represent at least 33 nationalities. Detainees speak several languages and dialects and represent at least two religions, Islam and Christianity.
It was unclear whether more nationalities were represented with Wednesday's arrivals.
The last detainee to arrive at the outpost on Cuba's eastern tip was a lone detainee the Zambian government had handed over.
Few details were available on the captive, who arrived April 20, other than he was in good medical condition. He was the only prisoner to be flown to Guantanamo Bay alone. The others came in groups of about 30 in a series of flights in January and February.
On April 5, Yasser Esam Hamdi, the only known American-born prisoner brought to Guantanamo, was flown back to the United States.
Hamdi, 22, was captured with fighters of the former ruling Taliban militia and the Al Qaeda terrorist network. He was removed from Guantanamo after records showed he was born in the United States.