Al Qaeda suspect seen as organizer of US warship attack

June 2, 2008 12:00 am

WASHINGTON, June 2 – Walid bin Attash, a Saudi of Yemeni origin, is alleged to be a senior Al-Qaeda leader who planned the bombing that killed 17 US sailors aboard a warship off Yemen in October 2000.

Attash, who is accused of attending Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan from 1995, is also alleged to have trained two of the hijackers who carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

US intelligence sources say he was born in 1979 in Saudi Arabia, to a Yemeni family which had links with Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, whose family was also originally from Yemen.

In 1997 he was injured and amputated below the knee during fighting in Afghanistan against the Northern Alliance, a diverse group battling the Taliban, Al-Qaeda’s allies. He now wears a prosthetic leg.

According to his US interrogators, Attash confessed to having bought the explosives and recruited members of the team that rammed an explosives-laden boat into the side of the destroyer USS Cole while it was refueling in the port of Aden. Seventeen US sailors were killed, and the vessel almost sank.

"I put together the plan for the operation a year and a half prior to the operation," Attash was quoted as telling a military panel convened in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Attash acknowledged, according to the US transcript, that he also was involved in the devastating bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1988. The Nairobi blast killed 213 people and another 12 died in the near simultaneous explosion in Dar Es Salaam.

Asked where he was at the time of the attack on the Cole on October 12, 2000, Attash said he was with bin Laden in Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

At the time of the East Africa embassy bombings, Attash said he was "in Karachi meeting the operators, the guy that basically did the operation a few hours before the operation took place."

Late in 2001, fleeing a US offensive in Afghanistan, Attash took refuge in neighboring Pakistan. He was captured there in Karachi on April 29, 2003, by Pakistani police during a dragnet in which five other suspected Al-Qaeda members were arrested.

Some 150 kilograms (300 pounds) of explosives were found in his apartment, along with arms, chemicals and two hundred detonators, the Islamabad authorities said.

Like other top Al-Qaeda leaders, Attash then disappeared for several years, during which he was held in a network of secret CIA prisons, where, according to US and international human rights organizations, he was tortured and subjected to degrading treatment.

He was transferred in September 2006 with 13 other "high-value detainees" to the US facility at Guantanamo Bay.



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