- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

Investigators believe they have identified a Kuwaiti lieutenant of Osama bin Laden as the operational mastermind in the September 11 terrorist attacks, a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said yesterday.
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, earlier designated as one of the FBI's most-wanted terrorists, is at large in Afghanistan or nearby, the law enforcement official told AP.
U.S. investigators said they believed Mohammed planned many aspects of the September 11 attacks, according to bin Laden's calls to kill all Americans.
"There's lots of links that tie him to 9/11," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "He's the most significant operational player out there right now."
Other bin Laden lieutenants also are believed to have helped put together the attacks, the official said, but evidence is mounting that Mohammed is at the center of the operational planning.
A second U.S. official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Mohammed played a critical role in planning the attacks, but that questions remained about the extent of his leadership. The official said other bin Laden lieutenants, including Abu Zubaydah, now in U.S. custody, also are believed to have played top organizational roles.
Within three months after September 11, the counterterrorism official said, the FBI learned that Mohammed had moved money that was used to pay for the attacks. Since then, the United States has gathered other significant evidence pointing to him as the key planner, the official said.
The official declined to go into detail, citing a need to protect intelligence information.
Mohammed was accused of working with Ramzi Yousef in the first bombing of the World Trade Center, which left six dead in 1993. He and Yousef, then hiding in the Philippines, also are accused of plotting in 1995 to bomb several trans-Pacific airliners heading for the United States. Yousef, now serving a life sentence in the United States, also is believed to have planned to crash a plane into CIA headquarters.
The State Department is offering a $25 million reward for information leading to Mohammed's capture. Officials say he continues to plot attacks against U.S. interests.
Mohammed was charged by federal prosecutors in New York in 1996 in connection with the airliner plot. The FBI describes him as in his mid-30s, sometimes wearing a beard and glasses, and slightly overweight. His aliases include Ashraf Refaat Nabith Henin, Khalid Abdul Wadood, Salem Ali and Fahd Bin Abdallah Bin Khalid.
U.S. officials repeatedly have said that capturing or killing bin Laden's cadre of lieutenants men like Mohammed is a key goal in the war on terrorism. In some ways, they are considered as dangerous as bin Laden. Whereas al Qaeda's leader serves as an inspiration to his followers, his top aides conduct the nuts-and-bolts planning of attacks.
The lieutenants are said to pick targets and attack dates, provide money and training to the foot soldiers and overseas cells chosen to carry them out sometimes at the cost of their own lives and maintain operational secrecy.
Most of the 19 suicide hijackers were thought not to have known the entirety of the September 11 plot or that they were going to die but Mohammed apparently did, the counterterrorism official said.
Mohammed had not been charged in connection with the attacks, which crashed hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, leaving about 3,000 dead.
He was a close associate of Zubaydah, officials said.
Some of the hijackers trained at Zubaydah's Khalden camp in Afghanistan, officials said. But they generally trained in groups of one or two at several camps, and they were kept apart from most other trainees.
Abu Zubaydah, captured in Pakistan in March, was said to have told U.S. interrogators that the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was destined for the White House, suggesting he knew of the planning.
Some key connections have yet to be worked out, the official said, such as who selected the hijackers to conduct the operation.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide