- The Washington Times - Monday, April 16, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Abu Zubaydah, accused of being a senior al Qaeda operative, says he has been an enemy of the U.S. since childhood but isn’t a member of the terrorist group or an associate of Osama bin Laden.

Zubaydah said that from 1994 to about 2000 he was a facilitator at guest houses in Pakistan, where he helped Muslims get to Afghanistan’s Khalden training camp for “defensive jihad” — that is to fight against forces that invade Muslim lands anywhere. He then helped send the trained militants on to Bosnia, Chechnya and elsewhere, he said.

“The statement that I was an associate of Osama bin Laden is false,” Zubaydah is quoted as saying by the transcript of his March 27 hearing. “I’m not his partner, and I’m not a member of al Qaeda.”

“Bin Laden wanted al Qaeda to have control of Khalden, but we refused since we had different ideas,” Zubaydah said.

He said he is happy to see others attack U.S. military targets such as the USS Cole — bombed by terrorists in 2000 as it refueled at Yemen — but thinks it’s against Islam to kill civilians.

“I disagreed with the al Qaeda philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those in the World Trade Center,” he said, referring to the September 11, 2001, attack in New York City.

Zubaydah also told a military hearing in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, that he had been tortured in U.S. custody and confessed to things he did not do, according to a Pentagon transcript released yesterday. He said he was not tortured after his transfer to Guantanamo, but before.

The Defense Department’s redacted 27-page transcript included a statement read to the hearing by Zubaydah’s appointed representative in addition to lengthy passages that were hard to understand because Zubaydah spoke in broken English, acknowledging at one point “I don’t know grammar in English.”

He said others involved with jihadist training in Afghanistan were angry with bin Laden after al Qaeda’s September 11 attacks because they had no advance warning, but that it was not a good time for disagreements among the groups.

“After 11 September, the big groups, they was angry from bin Laden — why you not tell us about this big operation? At least give us a chance to adjust ourself,” Zubaydah said.

“But we have idea … that if the enemy came to attack us, it is not good to make different between us.”

The purpose of the Guantanamo hearings is to determine whether the detainees should be classified as “enemy combatants” eligible for a military trial for war crimes.

Authorities argue that Zubaydah qualifies because of evidence he ran the Khalden training camp, where so-called “millennium bomber” Ahmed Ressam studied for the mission to bomb New Year’s 2000 celebrations in the United States. He is an expert in document forgery and trained in explosives at the Khalden camp, U.S. intelligence officials have said.

Zubaydah also transported $600,000 to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia in 1996, according to other evidence. Zubaydah denied it.

Between 1994 and 2000, he often smuggled people and chemicals — such as cyanide and nitrates for use in al Qaeda weapons — from Pakistan into Afghanistan, officials say.

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