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Al-Qaeda Suspect Reportedly Confesses To Planning 9/11

Khalid Sheikh Muhammad shortly after his capture in Rawalpindi in 2003 (epa) March 15, 2007 -- The Pentagon says Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, has confessed to plotting those and other Al-Qaeda attacks.

Muhammad's confession appears in a transcript of a closed-door U.S. military hearing held at the Guantanamo Bay prison for terrorist suspects in Cuba. The hearing is to determine whether Muhammad can be tried in a military tribunal as an "enemy combatant."

According to the transcript, Muhammad said he "was the operational director for Sheikh Osama bin Laden for
the organizing, planning, follow-up, and execution of the 9/11
operation," and that he was responsible for the September attacks "from A to Z."

The Pakistani citizen claims responsibility for planning 28 separate terrorist attacks against U.S., British, Israeli, and other targets, including the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Center and the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings.

Muhammad said he regrets the deaths of children in the September 11 attacks, and that he "does not like to kill people."

'High-Value' Suspects

Muhammad was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and is the most high-profile of 14 "high-value" detainees transferred in September from secret CIA prisons abroad to the Guantanamo Bay camp.

Some of the 14 have now appeared in the closed-door hearings, which began on March 10-11. Others have refused to take part in the process.

The Pentagon also released transcripts of the hearings of Abu Faraj al-Libi and Ramzi Binalshibh. Both refused to attend the hearings, although al-Libi submitted a statement claiming that the hearings were unfair and that he would not attend unless this is corrected.

Some human rights groups today called for "proper trials" for the detainess, saying it is not clear under what circumstances confessions such as Muhammad's are made.

'Not A Trial'

"I think we also have to put a 'health warning' on these apparent admissions, these confessions," Amnesty International spokesman Neil Durkin said in London today. "They do come from a secret process, which is not a trial. It is a Combat Status Review Tribunal. It is a screening process. No lawyers are allowed, and so we have to look at these confessions against that backdrop."

Durkin said that Muhammad, "along with 13 other so-called high-value detainees, was held in secret detention, entirely secret detention, for 3 1/2 years in a CIA, presumed, detention center, a 'black site' detention center."

Muhammad’s appearance now before a military tribunal comes as prosecutors have sought to speed up proceedings for detainees at Guantanamo.

That may be partly in response to international pressure, including from some of Washington’s allies in the U.S.-led war on terror.

Discussing terrorism charges filed by the United States against an Australian detainee at Guantanamo, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said on March 2: "The Americans have certainly speeded up the process. Whether that is the result of representations I've made to both President [George W.] Bush and Vice President [Dick] Cheney, I don't know, but we have made those representations. We remain very unhappy that it has taken so long."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today he was happy Muhammad was in Guantanamo Bay along with other United States detainees.

Downer recalled that "88 Australians were killed in the Bali bombing" alone.

(compiled from agency reports)

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