Suspect 'admits USS Cole attack'

Guantanamo hearing told that detainee bought explosives and recruited bombers.

    The USS Cole was almost sunk when an explosives-laden boat was crashed into it [File: EPA]
    Bin Attash told the panel he was with Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when the attack took place on October 12, 2000.

    He said he served as a key liaison in Pakistan between bin Laden and the plotters in Nairobi for the embassy bombings in east Africa.

    Embassy blasts

    At least 225 people died when suicide bombers detonated trucks loaded with explosives outside the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania at almost the same time on August 7, 1998.

    "I used to supply the cell with whatever documents they need - from fake stamps to visas, whatever"

    Wallid bin Attash, Guantanamo detainee

    "I was the link between Osama bin Laden and his deputy Sheikh Abu Hafs al-Masri and the cell chief in Nairobi," Attash said, according to the transcript.

    "I was the link that was available in Pakistan. I used to supply the cell with whatever documents they need - from fake stamps to visas, whatever - sending them from Afghanistan to Pakistan and individuals, cell members," he said.

    Mohammed Rashed Daoud al-Owhali, who is serving a life sentence in the US for the bombings, said bin Attash gave him a "martyrdom mission" in 1998, according to the unclassified summary of evidence.
    Bin Attash told al-Owhali "he would be driving a vehicle filled with explosives into a target which would result in his death," the summary said.

    "The detainee told al-Owhali the target was a United States embassy in east Africa, but he was not told the exact country," it added.
    'Mixed up' evidence

    Bin Attash did not dispute that piece of evidence, but speaking through a military officer assigned to represent him, he described some of the information in the summary as "mixed up".

    "Facts of the operations are correct and his involvement are correct, but the details are not correct," the officer said, adding that the detainee did not wish to correct the details.

    Under questioning from the military panel, bin Attash rejected an assertion in the evidence that another suspect in the Cole bombing forged a stamp on a fake Yemeni merchant's registration card that bin Attash used.
    He also denied that a phone in which an incriminating number was found belonged to him.

    The military has conducted seven combatant status review hearings so far.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, another senior al-Qaeda operative, confessed during a March 10 hearing to masterminding the September 11 attacks, "from A to Z," as well as more than 30 other plots.

    Fourteen suspects, who were transferred to Guantanamo Bay in September from secret CIA detention facilities overseas, will eventually face the hearings.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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