Chief suspect confesses responsibility for 9/11

By Andrew Gray

WASHINGTON - Al Qaeda suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has claimed he organized the September 11 attacks on the United States and a string of others, according to the transcript of a military hearing at the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, released today.

"I was responsible for the 9/11 Operation, from A to Z," Mohammed, speaking through a personal representative, said according to the transcript of the weekend hearing at the US military's Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

Mohammed, a Pakistani national, also said he was responsible for a 1993 attack on New York's World Trade Centre, a nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia, an attempt to down two American airplanes using shoe bombs and other attacks.

During the hearing, held to determine whether he meets the US definition of an enemy combatant, Mohammed also seemed to indicate he had been mistreated in US custody.

Mohammed is among 14 prisoners identified by US authorities as "high-value" terrorism suspects and transferred to Guantanamo last year from secret CIA prisons abroad.

US officials have said Mohammed, arrested in Pakistan in March 2003 and handed over to US custody, was the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, destroyed the World Trade Centre and damaged the Pentagon.

Mohammed spoke both on his own and through his representative, a member of the US military.

"I was the operational director for Sheikh Usama (Osama) Bin Laden for the organizing, planning, follow-up and execution of the 9/11 operation," he said through his representative.

Mohammed's full statement claimed responsibility for 28 separate attacks or plots. It also said he shared responsibility for three other plots, including one to assassinate Pope John Paul in the Philippines and another to kill Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

The transcript of the closed hearing had been edited by US officials, a practice the Pentagon said was necessary to remove sensitive security information.

EXPRESSES SOME REGRET

Mohammed, in a long statement in broken English, appeared to express some regret at the deaths caused by the September 11 attacks but suggested they were justified as part of a war against the United States.

"I'm not happy that three thousand been killed in America. I feel sorry even," he said.

"The language of any war in the world is killing. I mean the language of the war is victims."

Mohammed also referred to US journalist Daniel Pearl, killed in Pakistan in 2002, but his comments were unclear.

Mohammed is a prime suspect in Pearl's murder and Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf wrote in a memoir published last year that Mohammed executed Pearl.

The president of the three-member military panel conducting the hearing referred to a written statement "regarding alleged abuse or treatment that the detainee received."

No details of the treatment were revealed, although the president said Mohammed described it as torture and it would be reported for "any investigation that may be appropriate".

Mohammed, however, said his statement at the hearing was not made under any duress or pressure, according to the transcript.

He also compared al Qaeda leader bin Laden to George Washington, the first president of the United States.

"He is doing (the) same thing," he said. "He is just fighting. He needs his independence."

No immediate decision is made at the hearing, known as a combatant status review tribunal. A senior Pentagon official ultimately decides whether Mohammed is an enemy combatant.

The Pentagon posted the transcript on the internet here.

It also released transcripts of hearings for two others of the 14 detainees transferred last year, Ramzi bin al Shaibah, a Yemeni also accused of involvement in the September 11 attacks, and alleged senior al Qaeda figure Abu Faraj al Libi of Libya.

Neither man attended his hearing, according to the transcripts which can be seen here.

- REUTERS

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