Speaking later to Pentagon reporters, Kelly said the hunger strikes were an attempt to get attention and that officials were watching to see if the detainees were eating. While they may be refusing meals, some also had access to food and snacks in a common area where they were being detained.
"We also know they're eating when they're in the cell," Kelly said, adding that it's "their attempt at some level of resistance or to demonstrate their displeasure at what's going on."
Kelly also denied any suggestion that Qurans were being mishandled.
"No way has a Quran in any way shape or form been in any way abused or mistreated. So their claims are nonsense," he told reporters. He said the only people who touch the Qurans are translators or others who are Islamic in their beliefs.
Associated Press writers Ben Fox in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, contributed to this report.
Follow Richard Lardner on Twitter: https://twitter.com/rplardner
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.