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Alleged September 11th Attack Plotter Confesses


In a hearing at the Guantanamo Detention Center, former senior al-Qaida official Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has admitted he was responsible for the September 11 attacks in 2001 and many other terrorist acts. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Washington.

According to a transcript released by the Pentagon, Mohammed told the tribunal he was responsible for the September 11th attacks -- in his words -- "from A to Z." The transcript says Mohammed also admitted to responsibility for the attack on New York's World Trade Center in 1993; the attack on Israelis at a hotel and on an airliner in Kenya in 2002; the Bali nightclub attacks the same year that killed more than 200 people; and attempted attacks on U.S. airliners using explosives hidden in shoes.

In the transcript, he also admits to attacks or planned attacks in Britain, Turkey, Israel, the Philippines, Japan, Azerbaijan, Panama, Australia and Thailand, and to trying to assassinate Pope John Paul the Second, former American presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Pakistani President Pervez Musharaf. Mohammed also claims to have worked on plans to attack U.S. nuclear power plants and American and Israeli embassies in several countries.

The transcript says Mohammed told the hearing he did these and other things as a senior official of al-Qaida's military wing.

The U.S. government has long claimed Mohammed did many of the things he apparently admitted on Saturday. At the hearing, officials presented a long list of allegations against him, including charges related to the September 11 attacks. But some of the unsuccessful attacks he claimed had not previously been made public.

Although he is said to have admitted to many crimes during the 75-minute hearing, Mohammed disputed some of the military's claims, participating actively in the session in both English and Arabic. He told the tribunal he was tortured earlier in his detention, but details of his claim were removed from the transcript by the Defense Department.

Mohammed also expressed some regret about the deaths of more than three thousand people on September 11, saying he felt "sorry," particularly about any children who were killed. He also said his claims were not designed to exaggerate his role in al-Qaida, or to make himself into what he called "a hero."

The Combatant Status Review Tribunals are designed to determine whether detainees are 'enemy combatants.' If so, they become eligible for trials called Military Commissions, under a new 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 Mohammed and 13 other alleged senior terrorists who were transferred to Guantanamo last year from secret American prisons in other countries.

The tribunal president declined Mohammed's request to call two witnesses, saying the issues he wanted them to talk about were not relevant to the question of whether he is an enemy combatant.

Also on Wednesday, the Defense Department released transcripts of two other tribunals held in recent days. Detainee Ramzi Bin al-Shibh refused to participate in his hearing, or to speak to a military officer assigned to help him through it. He was accused of working with top al-Qaida leaders to plan the September 11 attacks, and of attempting to learn to fly an airplane, apparently in order to participate in the attacks.

A third detainee, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, was accused of being "a senior al-Qaida facilitator," helping with the recruiting of fighters in Pakistan and Afghanistan and helping to plan numerous attacks. The military officer assigned to help him said he declined to participate in the hearing, but he sent a written statement saying he wants access to the U.S. judicial system.

The information provided by the Defense Department covered the unclassified part of the proceedings. Even these transcripts had some material deleted for security reasons, including where the detainees were held before they were transferred to Guantanamo. Once the panels at the detention center make their recommendations, the detainees' status will be finally determined by senior officials in Washington.

Officials say the process of holding these hearings is continuing for the rest of Guantanamo's 14 newest detainees.