Al-Qaida No. 3 planned to crash planes into Eilat

Also claims 9/11 attacks, 2002 anti-Israeli bombing in Kenya, execution of Daniel Pearl.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 224.88 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 224.88 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
Khalid Sheikh Muhammad portrayed himself as al-Qaida's most ambitious operational planner in a confession to a US military tribunal that said he planned and supported 31 terrorist attacks, topped by 9/11, that killed thousands of innocent victims since the early 1990s. Muhammad also said he had dispatched "holy warriors" to conduct surveillance on "several strategic targets" in Israel and planned to crash planes into buildings in Eilat using aircraft departing Saudi Arabia. The gruesome attacks he planned range from the suicide hijackings of September 11, 2001 - which killed nearly 3,000 - to a 2002 shooting on an island off Kuwait that killed a US Marine, according to an account released by the Pentagon. Many plots, including a previously undisclosed plan to kill several former US presidents, were never carried out or were foiled by international counterterror authorities. "I was responsible for the 9/11 operation from A to Z," Muhammad said in a statement read Saturday during a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at the US detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Muhammad's confession was read by a member of the US military who is serving as his personal representative. The Pentagon released a 26-page transcript of the closed-door proceedings on Wednesday night. Some material was omitted. The document refers to locations for which the United States and other nations have issued terrorism warnings based on what they deemed credible threats from 1993 to the present. Muhammad, known as KSM among government officials, was last seen haggard after his capture in March 2003, when he was photographed in a dingy white T-shirt with an over-stretched neck. He disappeared for more than three years into a secret detention system run by the CIA. In his first public statements since his capture, his radical ideology and self-confidence came through. He expressed regret for taking the lives of children and said Islam doesn't give a "green light" to killing. In laying out his role in 31 attacks, his words drew al-Qaida closer to plots of the early 1990s than the group has previously been linked, including the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing in which six people died. Six people with links to global terrorist networks were convicted in US federal court and sentenced to life in prison for that attack. Muhammad made it clear that al-Qaida wanted to down a second trans-Atlantic aircraft during would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid's operation. And he confessed to the beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in a section of the statement that was excised from the public document, The Associated Press has learned. Pearl was abducted in January 2002 in Pakistan while researching a story on Islamic militancy. He said he planned the 2002 bombing of a Kenya beach resort frequented by Israelis and the failed missile attack on an Israeli Arkia passenger jet after it took off from Mombasa. He also said he was responsible for the bombing of a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia. In 2002, 202 were killed when two nightclubs there were bombed. President George W. Bush announced that Muhammad and 13 other alleged terrorists had been moved from secret CIA prisons to the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay last year. They are considered the 14 most significant captures since 9/11. Other plots he said he was responsible for included planned attacks against the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Empire State Building and New York Stock Exchange in New York City, the Panama Canal, and Big Ben and Heathrow Airport in London - none of which happened.