- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, confessed to U.S. military officials he beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl “with my blessed right hand.”

In revised transcripts released yesterday by the Pentagon of a Saturday hearing at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to determine his enemy-combatant status, Mohammed said he decapitated “the American Jew” in Karachi, Pakistan, in January 2002 because he was seeking information about a now-convicted shoe bomber.

“For those who would like to confirm, there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head,” he said.

The confession was withheld in the first release of the 26-page transcript on Wednesday night, Pentagon officials said, to allow time for Mr. Pearl’s family to be notified.

The veteran reporter was abducted in the Pakistani port city of Karachi on Jan. 23, 2002, as he tried to contact Islamic militant groups to investigate possible connections between then-shoe-bombing suspect Richard C. Reid and al Qaeda, founded by fugitive terrorist Osama bin Laden. The reporter’s grisly Feb. 20, 2002, death was recorded on a video that surfaced in Pakistan, his throat slit by a man in a hood.

Mr. Pearl left behind a widow, Marina, who was about to give birth to their first child.

Mohammed, who was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in March 2003 and later transferred to U.S. custody, was suspected early on as the reporter’s killer.

During the hearing, he told the court in English about the killing, but he claimed it was not an al Qaeda operation. “It’s like beheading Daniel Pearl. It’s not related to al Qaeda,” he said, adding instead that it involved the Pakistan Mujahideen.

In the hearing, Mohammed also said he had planned a second round of terrorist strikes on U.S. soil after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — targeting some of the country’s tallest skyscrapers, suspension bridges and nuclear power plants.

In the unclassified documents, Mohammed said he dispatched an al Qaeda loyalist to the United States “to case targets for a second wave of attacks” and claimed responsibility for “planning, training, surveying and financing” the attacks on the U.S. Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Plaza Bank in Seattle and the Empire State Building in New York.

He also said he planned to target suspension bridges in New York, the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions, and was in charge of surveillance for planned attacks on nuclear power plants in several states.

While he said he had planned to destroy the Sears Tower by burning “a few fuel or oil tanker trucks beneath it or around it,” the documents do not outline any specific information on the intended targets, how the attacks were going to be carried out, how far the planning had progressed or other sites that might also have been involved.

In October 2005, President Bush said federal authorities had successfully disrupted at least 10 serious al Qaeda terrorist plots worldwide since September 11, including three targeting U.S. sites. He also said at the time that five al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States or infiltrate operatives into the country also had been foiled, although he did not elaborate.

According to the transcript, Mohammed admitted being in charge of “managing and following up” on a terrorist cell for the production of biological weapons, including anthrax, and directing the operations of another cell seeking to conduct “dirty bomb” attacks on U.S. soil.

The documents do not contain any information on either cell. Dirty bombs are devices that use conventional explosives to scatter radioactive material.

Admitting to a total of 31 terrorist attacks that took place or plots that were never carried out, Mohammed described himself as the “principal planner, trainer, financier, executor and/or a personal participant” in a panoply of global terrorism activities, including the World Trade Center attacks in 1993 and 2001, the shoe-bomber operation to down two U.S. aircraft, bombings in Kuwait and Bali, and operations aimed at destroying U.S. Navy vessels and oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz and Gibraltar and in the Port of Singapore.

Mohammed, 41, a Pakistani national, also said he planned to bomb the Panama Canal; nightclubs frequented by Americans in Thailand; U.S. embassies in Indonesia, Australia and Japan; U.S. military bases and nightclubs in South Korea; and an American oil company in Sumatra “owned by the Jewish former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.”

Many of the intended plots have been known for some time, although others Mohammed outlined during the hearing had not been previously disclosed or were unconfirmed reports. They included assassination plots against former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and against Pope John Paul II.

“What I wrote here, is not I’m making myself hero, when I said I was responsible for this or that,” Mohammed said, addressing the unidentified Navy captain who presided over the hearing. “But you are military man. You know very well there are language for war.”

The validity of Mohammed’s claims is not clear. The September 11 commission has described him as being noted for his extravagant ambitions. But he has long been identified by U.S. authorities as a key al Qaeda operative and the planner of several terrorist missions, including September 11.

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