Detainee Admits to Helping Orchestrate Embassy, USS Cole Attacks
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2007 A detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has admitted to helping orchestrate the bombings of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998 and the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
The Defense Department today released the transcript of Walid Muhammad Salih bin Attash’s combat status review tribunal hearing, held March 12 at the detention facility. The tribunal was an administrative hearing to determine only if Attash could be designated an enemy combatant.
Attash is one of 14 high-value detainees who were transferred Sept. 6, 2006, to Guantanamo Bay from CIA custody. The CSRT hearings for these detainees are not open to media because of national security concerns, DoD officials said.
After hearing allegations against him, including his involvement in the Aug. 7, 1998, embassy bombing and the Oct. 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole, Attash said he carried out “many roles” in the attacks.
Speaking through an interpreter, Attash said he met in Karachi, Pakistan, with the operator who carried out the embassy attack just hours beforehand.
“I was the link between Osama bin Laden and his deputy, Sheikh Abu Hafs al Masi, and the cell chief in Nairobi,” Attash said. “I was the link that was available in Pakistan.”
In that capacity, Attash said he supplied the terror cell “with whatever documents they need(ed), from fake stamps to visas, whatever, sending them from Afghanistan to Pakistan and individuals, cell members.”
The attack, conducted almost simultaneously with an attack on the U.S. embassy in Tanzania, left 213 people in Nairobi dead, including 12 Americans, and more than 4,500 wounded.
Attash heard evidence against him charging that he facilitated and participated in close-combat training in the Lowgar training camp in Afghanistan in late 1999. Graduates of the class reportedly met with bin Laden, who lectured about the operational details of the East Africa bombings.
The following year, Attash is alleged to have helped plan and carry out the attack on the USS Cole during a refueling stop in the Yemeni port of Aden. Seventeen U.S. sailors were killed and 39 others wounded.
Attash said he helped plan the attack, purchased the boat and explosives used, and recruited the people who conducted it. He said he was in Kandahar with bin Laden during the actual attack.
The detainee challenged details in the allegations against him, such as the allegation that a phone number stored in another captured terrorists’ cell phone directory was also in his; he claimed he had no phone. But overall, he agreed to the allegations.
The “facts of the operations are correct, and his involvements are correct, but the details are not correct,” the interpreter said.
Attash said he did not wish to correct the details.
The U.S. government established the CSRT process at Guantanamo Bay as a result of a June 2004 Supreme Court decision in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden who challenged his detention at Guantanamo Bay. Between July 2004 and March 2005, DoD conducted 558 CSRTs at Guantanamo Bay. At the time, 38 detainees were determined to no longer meet the definition of enemy combatant, and 520 detainees were found to be enemy combatants.
Attash’s tribunal followed the March 10 proceedings for Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, who admitted to masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks as well as the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.
Proceedings also were held March 9 for Abu Faraj al-Libi, an alleged senior al Qaeda member, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who is said to have helped Muhammad plan the Sept. 11 attacks. Neither of the two elected to be present for their tribunals.