WASHINGTON -- The military on Monday effectively pronounced the end of a mass hunger strike among detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- a six-month protest that at one point swept through a majority of the inmate population, refocused global attention on the prison, and pushed the Obama administration to revive the stagnated effort to shutter it.
In a statement and an interview, a prison spokesman, Lt. Col. Samuel House, said Monday that the military would no longer issue daily updates on the number of inmates participating in the protest, eligible for force-feeding or hospitalized, as had been its practice over the past few months, because the participation has fallen away from its peak two months ago.
"Following July 10, 2013, the number of hunger strikers has dropped significantly, and we believe today's numbers represent those who wish to continue to strike," he said. "As always, our medical professionals will continue to monitor and evaluate the detainees while providing them with the appropriate level of care."
While about seven detainees at the prison have been on a strike for years, a larger protest had begun by early March and quickly gained steam.
At its peak, 106 of the 166 prisoners at the time were listed as participants by the military's official count. But since Sept. 11, just 19 of the 164 detainees now at the base have been participating, according to the military.
David Remes, a lawyer for several Guantanamo detainees, said the falloff in participation had happened because detainees had largely achieved their goals.
"I think the hunger strike ended because the men achieved their objectives," Mr. Remes said. "As far as I know, Qurans are not being searched. Guantanamo has returned to the national agenda. And President Obama has renewed efforts to close it. And, frankly, six months is a long time to be on a hunger strike."
Lt. Col. House, however, said that the policy and practice of searching Qurans had not changed. But he said the military authorities were now letting detainees who do not want their Qurans to be searched to turn the books in, which has alleviated some tensions.
The military said that its policy and practice for searching Qurans -- in which Muslim linguists, not uniformed guards, flipped through the pages -- was unchanged and that the allegations of some kind of different treatment of Qurans in a routine shakedown in February were just an excuse by leaders among the prisoners to rally a broader protest.
But both detainee lawyers and military officials agreed that the underlying cause of the protest was the growing despair of the inmates over whether they would ever go home alive.
The protest escalated over the spring, as detainees in the communal cellblocks -- home to inmates most compliant with prison rules -- began covering security cameras and refusing to go into their cells for nightly lockdowns, effectively barring guards from being able to monitor what was happening and police the common areas.
In early April, Rear Adm. John W. Smith Jr., the commander of the prison joint task force, ordered a predawn raid on the communal cellblocks, forcing all the detainees into a lockdown in separate cells.The raid and its aftermath intensified the hunger strike protest for a time. It also focused attention on the military's policy of force-feeding detainees who had lost too much weight with a nutritional supplement through gastric tubes inserted through their noses if they refused to eat, a practice that medical ethics groups denounced.