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Detainee admits planning Sept. 11

By LOLITA C. BALDOR Washington Post
Published March 15, 2007


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, long said to be the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, confessed to them at a military hearing held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Saturday, according to a transcript released by the Defense Department on Wednesday. He also acknowledged full or partial responsibility for more than 30 other terror attacks or plots.

"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z," he said.

In a rambling statement, Mohammed said his actions were part of a military campaign. "I'm not happy that 3,000 been killed in America," he said. "I feel sorry, even. I don't like to kill children and the kids." He added: "The language of war is victims."

Though U.S. officials had linked Mohammad to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and to several others, his confession was the first time he spelled out in his own words a panoply of global terror activities, ranging from plans to bomb landmarks in New York and London to assassination attempts against former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II. Some of the plots he claimed to plan, including the attempt on Carter, had not previously been publicly disclosed.

Mohammad, a Kuwaiti national, indicated in the transcript that some of his earlier statements to CIA interrogators were the result of torture. But he said that his statements Saturday were not made under duress or pressure.

In addition to the Mohammed transcript, the Pentagon on Wednesday released transcripts of the hearings of Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh.

Mohammed spoke before a combatant status review tribunal that has the narrow task of determining whether President Bush had properly designated him an enemy combatant. Mohammed's confession will almost certainly be used against him if and when he is tried for war crimes by a military commission.

Parts of the transcript were redacted by the military, and there were suggestions in it that Mohammed was mistreated while in the custody of the CIA after his arrest in 2003. He was transferred to military custody at Guantanamo Bay last year.

Mohammed was aided during the tribunal by a "personal representative," not a lawyer.

In answer to a question from the president of the tribunal, a Navy captain whose name was not released, Mohammed suggested that he had made false statements in the past under duress. But he agreed that he was not "under any pressure or duress" at the hearing itself.

While not contesting his own guilt, Mohammed asked the U.S. government to "be fair with people." He said that many people who had been arrested as terrorists were innocent.

Mohammed's representative, an Air Force lieutenant colonel whose name also was not released, read a statement on Mohammed's behalf "with the understanding he may interject or add statements if he needs to."

In the statement, Mohammed described himself as the "military operational commander for all foreign operations around the world" for al-Qaida.

He also took responsibility for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the bombing of a nightclub in Bali.

Mohammed also outlined a vast series of plots that were not completed. Among his targets, he said, were office buildings in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York; suspension bridges in New York; the New York Stock Exchange "and other financial targets after 9/11"; the Panama Canal; British landmarks including Big Ben; buildings in Israel; American embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan; Israeli embassies in India, Azerbaijan, the Philippines and Australia; airliners around the world; and nuclear power plants in the United States.

Mohammed also said that he had taken part in "surveying and financing for the assassination of several former American presidents, including President Carter." He added that he was responsible for an assassination attempt against President Clinton in the Philippines.

It is not clear how many of Mohammad's expansive claims were legitimate. In 2005, the Sept. 11 Commission said that Mohammad was noted for his extravagant ambitions, and, using his initials, described his vision as "theater, a spectacle of destruction with KSM as the self-cast star, the superterrorist."

Mohammed declined to speak under oath, saying his religious beliefs prohibited it. But he said he was telling the truth.

Combatant status review tribunals are informal hearings created in response to a 2004 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to judge whether prisoners at Guantanamo were properly designated as enemy combatants and subject to indefinite detention.

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 02:02:22]

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