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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Admits 9/11, WTC 1993, Plot To Kill Clinton

Terrorist compares self, Osama bin Laden to American Revolutionary War hero George Washington

By J.M. Berger

Comparing himself to George Washington, al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed confessed his role in the September 11 attacks.

He also said he was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, according to a transcript of his military tribunal hearing at Guantanamo Bay. It is the first time such a claim has been openly advanced.

Full transcript (PDF)

Mohammed was also charged with being the author of the 1995 Bojinka plot, a thwarted plan to bomb a dozen U.S.-bound airliners during a 48 hour period. Both the World Trade Center bombing and Bojinka also involved Mohammed's nephew Ramzi Yousef.

In his statement before the tribunal (partly by Mohammed himself and partly read by his appointed representative), Mohammed disputed several points among the charges, denying charges that he claimed to be head of al Qaeda's military committee and that he had received operation funding from Islamic extremists in Kuwait.

He also disputed the spelling of his name in the summary of evidence against him.

"Ninety percent of what is written is wrong," Mohammed said to the court.

However, Mohammed was frank about his status regarding the United States.

"I will not regret when I say I'm enemy combatant," he said.

Mohammed confessed that he had sworn bayat (an oath of loyalty) to Osama bin Laden, and said he was a member of the "al Qaeda council."

He also said he was media operations director for al Qaeda's As-Sahab production company, answering to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second-in-command.

Mohammed confessed to being "operational director" for September 11, underneath military commander Abu Hafs al Masri. He said he trained and housed the hijackers in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"I was responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center operation," Mohammed said, the first documented claim linking him to that attack.

He confessed to a laundry list of other plots. Mohammed stated that preior to 1994 or 1995, his plots were not linked to al Qaeda. The dividing line was not clear from Mohammed's statement, presumably due to his command of English.

"Before I remember al Qaeda which is related to Bojinka Operation, I went to destination involve to us in 94, 95," he said.

Among the plots he claimed were the Bali nightclub bombings and the shoe bombing attempted by Richard Reid. He said he had financed efforts to assassinate several former U.S. presidents.

Among those was a 1994 to 1995 plot to assassinate former President Bill Clinton in the Philippines. He said he shared responsibility for a contemporaneous plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II in Manila, but said he was not primarily responsible for that plan.

Mohammed also appeared to claim responsibility for the 1993 "Day of Terror" plot, a thwarted attack for which blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman was convicted. He confessed to managing plots to attack the United States with anthrax and dirty bombs.

The long list of attacks to which Mohammed confessed complicity may be exaggerated. However, he was already suspected in many of the plots. One plot -- the third one listed, directly after 9/11 and the World Trade Center bombing -- was redacted.

UPDATE: The Pentagon later released a revised transcript revealing that Mohammed confessed to the murder of journalist Daniel Pearl. Mohammed said the murder was not connected to al Qaeda. END UPDATE

Mohammed refused to be sworn in before the tribunal. Through a translator, he said "Take an oath is part of your tribunal and I'll not accept it."

He also spoke candidly about his role.

"I'm not making myself (a) hero when I said I was responsible for this or that. But you are military men. You know very well there (is) language for any war," he said.

"For sure, I'm American enemies," he said later. "When we made any war against America, we are jackals fighting in the nights."

He compared himself and his fellow jihadists to George Washington, at one point, saying bin Laden was doing "the same thing. He is just fighting. He needs his independence. ... If now we were living in the Revolutionary War, and George Washington, he being arrested through Britain, for sure they would consider him enemy combatant."

Citing a "funny story," Mohammed said that agents of Arab governments who had been sent to assassinate bin Laden had been arrested and imprisoned as enemy combatants.

"When they say we are enemy combatant, that right," he said. "We are. But I'm asking you again to be fair with many detainees which are not enemy combatant."


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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