Gitmo detainee denies an al-Qaida connection

He says he is an enemy of the United States but doesn't agree with al-Qaida's tactics.

Associated Press
Published April 17, 2007

WASHINGTON - Abu Zubaydah, accused of being a senior al-Qaida operative, says he has been a U.S. enemy since childhood but isn't a member of the terrorist group or an associate of Osama bin Laden.

Zubaydah also told a military hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he had been tortured in U.S. custody and confessed to things he did not do, according to a Pentagon transcript released Monday.

The purpose of the Guantanamo hearings is to determine whether the detainees should be classified as "enemy combatants" eligible for a military trial for war crimes.

Zubaydah appeared before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, an administrative hearing, at Guantanamo Bay on March 27, as one of 14 "high value" detainees transferred there in September after being held at secret CIA prisons abroad. The public and reporters are not permitted access to the hearings. Of the 13 hearings held so far, 12 transcripts have been released.

Zubaydah said that from 1994 to about 2000 he was a facilitator at guesthouses in Pakistan, where he helped Muslims get to Afghanistan's Khalden training camp for "defensive jihad" - that is to fight against forces that invade Muslim lands anywhere. He then helped send the trained militants on to Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere, he said.

"The statement that I was an associate of Osama bin Laden is false," Zubaydah is quoted as saying by the transcript of his hearing. "I'm not his partner, and I'm not a member of al-Qaida.

"Bin Laden wanted al-Qaida to have control of Khalden, but we refused since we had different ideas," Zubaydah said.

He said he's happy to see others attack U.S. military targets such as the USS Cole - bombed by terrorists in 2000 as it refueled off Yemen - but believes it's against Islam to kill civilians.

"I disagreed with the al-Qaida philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those in the World Trade Center," he said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack in New York.

The Defense Department's redacted 27-page transcript included a statement read to the hearing by Zubaydah's appointed representative in addition to lengthy passages that were hard to understand because Zubaydah spoke in English, acknowledging at one point, "I don't know grammar in English."