- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2007

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A Saudi accused of arranging financing for the September 11 terrorist-plot participants told a hearing he got money transfers from two hijackers inside the United States just hours before the attacks, according to a transcript the Pentagon released yesterday.

But Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, who was based in the United Arab Emirates on September 11, 2001, denied that he was a member of al Qaeda or that he sent money to the hijackers.

He is one of 14 “high-value” detainees who were transferred to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last September after being held in secret CIA prisons abroad. The transcript of his Guantanamo hearing contained no reference to his detention; a portion in which he explained how he was captured in Pakistan in 2003 was censored by the Defense Department.

The hearing, held to determine whether he is an “enemy combatant” eligible to be charged with war crimes, was conducted March 21.

Al-Hawsawi said he was told by al Qaeda operative Ramzi Binalshibh about the September 11 plot one day in advance and was instructed to fly that same day from the UAE to Pakistan, where he met Binalshibh the following day. Binalshibh is one of the 14 sent to Guantanamo last September; his hearing was March 9 but he refused to attend and submitted no statement.

Asked by a member of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal his reaction to realizing he was “part of that operation,” a reference to the September 11 attacks, al-Hawsawi replied, according to the transcript, “In the beginning I was surprised by the size of the operation. It was mostly a surprise to me.”

The transcript does not fully explain the significance of the claim that al-Hawsawi received thousands of dollars in money transfers from hijackers shortly before the September 11 attacks, other than establishing his association with them.

According to the office of the Director of National Intelligence, al-Hawsawi was one of two key financial facilitators entrusted by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — who also is held at Guantanamo and reportedly has confessed to his role in the September 11 plot — to manage the funding of the hijacking plan.

A published U.S. intelligence summary of al-Hawsawi’s role said there are indications he had direct ties to Binalshibh and that Binalshibh delivered some of the money from al-Hawsawi to the hijackers. It also said four hijackers returned money directly to al-Hawsawi in the week before the attacks and that he received it in the UAE.

The intelligence summary said al-Hawsawi shared a UAE-based financial account with one hijacker, and that the account provided money for the hijackers’ activities in the month before the attacks.

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