The Pentagon on Monday charged the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and five other al-Qaida prisoners with murder and war crimes, saying prosecutors would seek the death penalty in all the cases.
Former al-Qaida operations chief Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who allegedly planned the Sept. 11 hijackings at the behest of Osama bin Laden, was charged along with five other alleged conspirators.
The others charged were Mohammed al-Qahtani, the man officials have labeled the 20th hijacker; Ramzi Binalshibh, said to have been the main intermediary between the hijackers and al-Qaida leaders; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed alleged to be a lieutenant for the 2001 operation; Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi; and Waleed bin Attash, who investigators say selected and trained some of the hijackers.
Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, who made the announcement at the Pentagon, said the charges lay out a long-term, sophisticated plan by al-Qaida to target the United States. The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon killed nearly 3,000 Americans.
Mohammed, a Pakistani national, has said he planned all aspects of the Sept. 11 attacks. He also reportedly confessed during interrogation to personally wielding the knife that decapitated Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The charges, if approved by a Pentagon appointee who oversees the war court at Guantanamo, are the first from that court alleging direct involvement in the 2001 attacks on the United States and the first involving the death penalty.
The six men will be tried jointly at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but Pentagon officials said that it will not begin for at least another five months. Even so, the process, including appeals, could last for years.