The second tower of the World Trade Center bursts into flames after being hit by a hijacked airplane in New York on September 11, 2001..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A suspected al-Qaida operative detained at the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, claims that a member of the Saudi royal family helped recruit terror operatives before the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to a recently released transcript by the Pentagon.
Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi recalled that a unnamed figure referred to as "your highness" by a religious figure in the organization was consulted by telephone before he was sent to the US to carry out an unfulfilled operation involving the use of an airplane.
Al-Sharbi, who studied as a college student in Arizona, made the comments to the Periodic Review Board
at Guantanamo Bay in June, 2016. The Periodic Review Board makes recommendations concerning the release or continued detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.
The Pentagon released a transcript of al-Sharbi's comments on Thursday.
"I remember, 'yes, your highness, yes your highness,' and he was talking to him about me," the transcript quotes al-Sharbi as saying.
"'This guy graduated from an aviation school. Yeah, he wants'... then he turns off his phone," al-Sharbi added.
The statements have been scrutinized as lacking important details, including if "the religious figure" in the al-Qaida organization had connections to any officials in the Saudi government. Furthermore, the Saudi royal family consists of thousands of members, none of whom are directly identified by al-Sharbi.
But the transcript adds to growing suspicion among politicians in the United States
that figures in the Saudi Arabian government may have had a hand in assisting the 19 terrorists who successfully carried out the worst terror attack in US history.
In June, 28-classified pages of the 2002 9/11 Commission report were made public, causing considerable consternation between the US-Saudi governments.
The White House was quick to say that the documents showed no evidence of Saudi complicity.
"It will confirm what we have been saying for quite some time," White House Press Secretary John Earnest told reporters during a daily briefing in early July.
The Saudi government has consistently denied i
t had any involvement in the attack, pointing to the 9/11 Commission, an FBI investigation and a number of other inquiries into the matter.
Compounding tensions, however, is a bill passed earlier this week in the US House of Representatives that will allow private individuals to sue the Saudi Arabian government in US courts over the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act," known as JASTA, was passed on Friday but the White House has threatened to veto the measure.
The US government accuses al-Sharbi', imprisoned at Guantanamo since 2002, of being recruited by an "al-Qaida military commander and received training on how to manufacture radio-remote controlled IEDs (RCJEDs) with the intent of training other extremists in bomb - making techniques," according to his Guantanamo detainee profile.
Al-Sharbi is also accused of attending meetings with leaders of al-Qaida who "may have discussed attacks against the US, possibly including a plot... to explode a radiological dirty-bomb."