GENEVA (AP) – The international Red Cross said yesterday it has hand carried 3,300 short letters between detainees’ families and suspected Taliban and al-Qaida fighters held at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

The detainees – the first of whom arrived on Jan. 11 last year – are banned from making phone calls or having any other type of direct contact with the outside world. But they can communicate with relatives through mail delivered by the U.S. Postal Service or the International Committee of the Red Cross.

“They represent a lifeline of contact,” said the ICRC at the end of one year of being the only independent group allowed to visit the prisoners of 40 nationalities held at Guantanamo Bay.

As part of its role in monitoring conditions of prisoners taken during armed conflict around the world, the neutral, Swiss-based agency also offers letter delivery for prisoners’ families.

Most of the detainees were captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

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