The self-portrait of an Al Qaeda leader
Most Americans know him from the unflattering picture taken shortly after his arrest in Pakistan in 2003. Disheveled and drowsy, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed appeared as anything but a stoic Islamic warrior engaged in a heroic struggle.Skip to next paragraph
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This week a more complete – and complex – portrait of the man began to emerge. He knows Islam does not support wanton killing, but he rationalizes that Muslims are under siege by America.
He boasts of involvement in the 9/11 and other attacks and then expresses remorse for the loss of life – particularly the deaths of children.
He acknowledges involvement in what amount to gigantic international crimes, then takes exception to an Al Jazeera press report that misidentified his rank and position in Al Qaeda.
In one breath he admits to decapitating American reporter Daniel Pearl, and in another he complains that the American military is misspelling his name.
Overall, the portrait that emerges of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is that of an individual who represents the worst kind of enemy – a man who believes with certainty that his cause is just and that God is on his side.
These new details about Mr. Mohammed come via a transcript released by the Pentagon of a proceeding conducted last Saturday at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.
A panel of military officers convened at the base to determine whether there was enough evidence to classify Mohammed as an enemy combatant. Mohammed did not dispute that classification.
"For sure," he told the tribunal, he was America's enemy.
"When we say we are enemy combatant, that['s] right. We are," he said.
But he didn't stop there. He admitted to an encyclopedic list of terror attacks and attempted or planned attacks worldwide. Some had never been previously disclosed. Others were long suspected.
"I was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z," he told the panel in a written statement.
He added: "I decapitated with my blessed right hand the head of the American Jew, Daniel Pearl, in the city of Karachi, Pakistan. For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head."
Mr. Pearl was a Wall Street Journal reporter who was abducted and murdered in Pakistan in 2002.
Mohammed also claimed participation in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; the "shoe bomb" plot involving Richard Reid; the nightclub bombing in Bali, Indonesia in October 2002; a planned second wave of 9/11-like attacks on skyscrapers in Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, and New York; planned attacks on the Panama Canal; attacks on suspension bridges in New York and the New York Stock Exchange; attacks in London against Heathrow Airport, the Canary Wharf building, and Big Ben; and a missile attack against an El Al airliner near Mombasa, Kenya, among others.
He also admitted to involvement in assassination plots against then President Bill Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter, and Pope John Paul II.