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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Detainee Denies Running Al Qaeda Training Camps in Afghanistan

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 16, 2007 – An alleged terrorist being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denied U.S. government accusations that he managed al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan or facilitated a failed terrorist attack on Los Angeles in 1999, according to a transcript released today from his March 27 tribunal hearing.

The detainee, Abu Zubaydah, told the tribunal through an interpreter that he didn’t support Osama bin Laden’s philosophy of targeting innocent civilians as part of waging jihad, or holy war. He was captured during a raid at a safe house in Pakistan on March 28, 2002.

The tribunal was held to determine if Zubaydah, 36, could be designated as an enemy combatant.

A U.S. government witness, Ahmed Ressam, who is also being held at Guantanamo, told officials at the hearing that Zubaydah was a staunch bin Laden supporter, had run at least two terrorist training camps for al Qaeda in Afghanistan and had also helped him, Ressam, gain access into the U.S. to conduct terrorism before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

Ressam was arrested after crossing the U.S.-Canadian border at Port Angeles, Wash., Dec. 14, 1999. A Los Angeles federal court found him guilty on several counts of terrorism and other felony charges on April 6, 2001. Federal prosecutors alleged Ressam’s car contained bomb-making materials and that the Algerian was planning to bomb New Year’s celebrations in the United States.

Ressam, who told U.S. officials that he’d planned to place a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport, stated that he studied for the mission in April 1998 at a terrorist training camp near Khwost, Afghanistan, a facility that Zubaydah had overseen.

A Federal Bureau of Investigation source said Zubaydah, who was born in Saudi Arabia, had traveled to Saudi Arabia in 1996 and delivered $600,000 to al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden.

Zubaydah told officials at the tribunal that he never visited bin Laden at that time or had transported money to the al Qaeda chieftain.

“I only met him in the year 2000,” Zubaydah said. “I’m not his (bin Laden’s) partner and I’m not a member of al Qaeda.”

Regarding Ressam’s accusations, Zubaydah acknowledged he had assisted in the obtaining of passports, but “not fake ones.” He did not dispatch Ressam to perform mayhem in the United States, he said.

“I wanted five real Canadian (only) passports to be used for personal matters, not terrorist-related activities,” Zubaydah said.

The government said Zubaydah had expressed his desire to wage holy war on the United States through some entries in his personal diary, in which the detainee stated he would instigate racial riots and set off timed explosives targeting gas stations, fuel trucks and forests. Zubaydah responded that his writings “were strictly hypothetical – they were not plans that I intended to execute against non-military targets in America or anywhere else.”

Zubaydah also told tribunal officials that he’d never visited or managed the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan that was cited by Ressam. Instead, Zubaydah said he’d worked out of Pakistan to help facilitate logistics for people en route to the camp.

“But, I knew nothing about the details of the actual training at the (Khalden) camp,” Zubaydah said, noting that he “was not the head of the training camp.”

Zubaydah also told the tribunal that he didn’t support al Qaeda’s philosophy of conducting total war against enemies of Islam, including the killing of civilians.

“I disagreed with the al Qaeda philosophy of targeting innocent civilians like those at the World Trade Center,” Zubaydah asserted.

“I never believed in killing civilians,” he added.

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