Testimony Includes Detainee’s Statement, Terrorist Training

NAVAL STATION GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba, Feb. 17, 2011 — Tes­ti­mo­ny so far today in the sen­tenc­ing por­tion of the mil­i­tary com­mis­sion tri­al of Noor Uth­man Muhammed — who plead­ed guilty this week to sup­port­ing and con­spir­ing with ter­ror­ists — has ranged from a per­son­al state­ment from the detainee to details of his ter­ror­ist train­ing.
As part of the defense team’s tes­ti­mo­ny, Army Maj. Amy Fitzgib­bons read a state­ment writ­ten by Noor, as he has asked to be called in the court­room, to the nine mem­bers who make up the mil­i­tary-com­mis­sion sen­tenc­ing pan­el.

Despite his admis­sion to help­ing mem­bers of inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions in their efforts to attack the Unit­ed States, Noor wrote, “I have nev­er been a mem­ber of the Tal­iban or al-Qai­da, … and have nev­er planned or par­tic­i­pat­ed in a ter­ror­ist attack.”

The detainee, who was trans­ferred from Bagram Air­field, Afghanistan, to the deten­tion cen­ter here in August 2002, said he is in poor health and that he hopes to get home to his fam­i­ly in Port Sudan and live out the rest of his days peace­ful­ly.

In his state­ment, the 44-year-old described a poor child­hood in Kas­sala, Sudan. Noor’s par­ents died when he was young, and trib­al mem­bers in the com­mu­ni­ty raised him. He attend­ed school only for a short time, learn­ing some “math and let­ters,” and then left his broth­er to move to Port Sudan to earn a makeshift liv­ing doing odd jobs. He moved from house to house, stay­ing “in what­ev­er house had space for me” and sleep­ing on floors.

“Life,” he said, “was a dai­ly strug­gle.”

In the cos­mopoli­tan mar­kets of Port Sudan, a gate­way for Mus­lim trav­el­ers, he learned more about Islam, about the strug­gles many Mus­lims faced around the world, and about the oblig­a­tion of Mus­lims to “pre­pare them­selves to defend Islam,” he said in his state­ment.

When he heard about places in Afghanistan where such knowl­edge could be gained, he said, he bor­rowed mon­ey in 1994 to trav­el to the ter­ror­ist train­ing camp in Khalden in the Khost region, where he was trained and lat­er worked under the camp’s leader, or emir, Ibn Sheikh al-Libi.

In 1996, accord­ing to a court doc­u­ment that both the pros­e­cu­tion and the defense accept­ed as fact, al-Qai­da leader Osama bin Laden and oth­ers began issu­ing pub­lic dec­la­ra­tions known as fat­was that called for vio­lent attacks against the prop­er­ty and peo­ple of the Unit­ed States and its allies, in part to force the Unit­ed States to with­draw its forces from the Ara­bi­an penin­su­la and to oppose U.S. sup­port of Israel.

Noor was aware of these dec­la­ra­tions, the goals of al-Qai­da to attack the Unit­ed States and the con­duct of ter­ror­ist attacks against the Unit­ed States by al-Qai­da and oth­er inter­na­tion­al ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions, the doc­u­ment said.

Some­time in 1999 or 2000, Noor helped to move the camp to Kab­ul, Afghanistan, where soon after it was closed. Dur­ing the time it was oper­a­tional, sev­er­al men were trained there who lat­er par­tic­i­pat­ed in plots or attacks against the Unit­ed States:

— Mohammed al Owhali, who lat­er admit­ted par­tic­i­pat­ing in the 1998 bomb­ing of the U.S. embassy in Nairo­bi, Kenya;

— Ahmed Ressam, who lat­er admit­ted par­tic­i­pat­ing in a foiled plot to bomb Los Ange­les Inter­na­tion­al Air­port on Dec. 31, 1999, the eve of the new mil­len­ni­um; and

— Zacarais Mous­saoui, the self-named “20th hijack­er,” who lat­er admit­ted par­tic­i­pat­ing in the con­spir­a­cy to attack U.S. tar­gets on Sept. 11, 2001.

By March 2002, the court doc­u­ment con­tin­ued, Noor and 12 or more ter­ror­ists set­tled into a safe house in Faisal­abad, Pak­istan, that was being used as a hide­out and train­ing facil­i­ty. They were joined there and led by Sau­di-born Abu Zubay­dah, accord­ing to court doc­u­ments.

Near the end of March, Pak­istani author­i­ties raid­ed the safe house and, after a shootout, cap­tured the ter­ror­ists.

Through­out the morn­ing in the tight­ly secured court­room, the pros­e­cu­tion pre­sent­ed to the pan­el in this sen­tenc­ing por­tion of the tri­al an array of evi­dence found in the Faisal­abad house.

The cache includ­ed elec­tron­ic com­po­nents, dig­i­tal watch­es and oth­er tools used to build det­o­na­tors for car bombs. Inves­ti­ga­tors also found iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments, explo­sive train­ing note­books, a jihad gueril­la tac­tics man­u­al, and oth­er mil­i­tary man­u­als and train­ing mate­ri­als.

The man­u­als con­tained instruc­tions for form­ing and coor­di­nat­ing ter­ror­ist cells and car­ry­ing out ter­ror­ist oper­a­tions in cities. Accord­ing to the man­u­als, pri­or­i­ty tar­gets for hos­tile oper­a­tions includ­ed Jews and Chris­tians, espe­cial­ly eco­nom­ic or police offi­cials and tourists. The man­u­als also advised tar­get­ing Jews, Amer­i­cans and Britons for kid­nap­ping or assas­si­na­tion with “gas­es or microbes.”

Anoth­er man­u­al sec­tion detailed how to storm and break an airplane’s cock­pit door and take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion with tac­tics includ­ing “point­ing a weapon at the pilot’s head.” In addi­tion, the man­u­al rec­om­mends evac­u­at­ing the aircraft’s first-class cab­in, mov­ing peo­ple fur­ther back into the plane so the first-class cab­in could be used as a “hold­ing and killing room.”

Expe­ri­ence had shown that for West­ern­ers, “the psy­cho­log­i­cal impact of behead­ing is much deep­er than killing by shoot­ing,” the man­u­al said.

“Chris­tians and Jews are very sen­si­tive and dis­mayed by human injuries,” the man­u­al not­ed, “and that is why muja­hedeen should strike them first and then attack” what­ev­er tar­get has been cho­sen.

Inside the safe house, inves­ti­ga­tors also found moti­va­tion­al mate­ri­als that includ­ed dozens of audio-cas­sette tapes, a video­tape of Abu Zubay­dah explain­ing his activ­i­ties in sup­port of Osama bin Laden, and diaries that belonged to some of the safe house occu­pants, includ­ing Zubay­dah.

In the diary, an entry for March 20 described the house as “tem­po­rary” and “suit­able to stay for the win­ter so I can arrange our spe­cial pro­gram.”

Anoth­er page of his diary describes per­son­al­ly choos­ing some of the men to par­tic­i­pate in future activ­i­ties.

“Some of them were instruc­tors at Khalden camp. I chose some of them myself and with them I will start a lot of ideas and projects … and we ask God for suc­cess.”

An excerpt of a video­tape with rolling Eng­lish sub­ti­tles showed Zubay­dah appear­ing to be in his 40s, with reg­u­lar fea­tures, a full dark beard and dressed in tra­di­tion­al white Mus­lim garb.

“Our ene­mies know why we are fight­ing them,” he said, describ­ing the ene­mies as “Jews, Chris­tians, apos­tates of Hin­dus and athe­ists.”

Zubay­dah out­lined past ter­ror­ist oper­a­tions in Sau­di Ara­bia, oper­a­tions “with bin Laden in Kenya and Tan­za­nia,” and “the tru­ly mag­nif­i­cent oper­a­tion at the trade cen­ter on Man­hat­tan Island and in areas around Wash­ing­ton and New York.”

He added, “We are with any group that asserts the uni­ty of Allah by means of oper­a­tions and that sup­port Allah in word and deed and thought. We sup­port them with mon­ey, efforts, ideas [and] coop­er­a­tion. We are with them.”

The defense team fin­ished pre­sent­ing its evi­dence this morn­ing. The mil­i­tary com­mis­sion pan­el will delib­er­ate and deter­mine a sen­tence for Noor when the defense com­pletes its pre­sen­ta­tion of evi­dence.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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