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Guantanamo Detainee Admits to Planning Major Attacks


The U.S. Defense Department says an al-Qaida detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention center has confessed to helping to organize the attack on the U.S. embassy in Kenya in 1998 and the attack on a U.S. navy ship in Yemen in 2000. The admissions are contained in a transcript released Monday of a hearing held at Guantanamo a week ago. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

According to the transcript, detainee Walid Bin Attash confirmed to a military tribunal that he was involved in planning and helping to carry out the two attacks. The document says a statement read for him says, "the facts of the operations are correct and his involvements are correct."

Later, according to the transcript, Attash himself answered a question from a member of the tribunal by saying he put together the plan for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen a year and a half in advance.

The transcript also quotes him as saying he bought the explosives and the boat used in the attack, and that he was in Afghanistan with al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden when the attack occurred. Seventeen American sailors were killed and 39 were wounded.

The transcript says Attash also told the tribunal he was the link between Bin Laden and the terrorist cell operating in Nairobi, and that he provided the cell members with whatever documents and visas they needed. He said he met in Pakistan with one of the men involved in the embassy bombing just hours before the attack that killed 213 people and injured more than 4,000.

The U.S. embassy in Tanzania was bombed on the same day, but Attash has not been implicated in that attack.

Walid Bin Attash is reported to have made the statements at his Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing. The tribunals are designed to determine whether detainees are "enemy combatants." If so, they become eligible for trials called Military Commissions, under a procedure approved by the U.S. Congress last year.

Hundreds of detainees have been released as a result of these and other review proceedings, but that is not expected for Attash and 13 other alleged senior terrorists who were transferred to Guantanamo last year from secret American prisons in other countries.

Attash was the fourth of the new arrivals to have his hearing. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman says three more were held in recent days, but those transcripts have not yet been released.

At a briefing earlier this month, Whitman said the transcripts are reviewed before release so national security information can be removed. He says that is particularly important in the proceedings involving these 14 men, who the Pentagon calls "high value detainees."

"I think everybody recognizes that these individuals are unique for the role that they have played in terrorist operations and in combat operations against U.S. forces," said Bryan Whitman.

Last week, the Pentagon released transcripts from three other tribunals, including one in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is reported to have admitted to being a top al-Qaida official and planning the attacks in New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.

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