Five alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States that claimed nearly 3,000 lives are to set to stand trial.
The United States on Wednesday uveiled charges against the alleged plotters of the September 11, 2001, attacks that claimed nearly 3,000 lives. The Pentagon official overseeing the trials said the Guantanamo Bay prisoners would face the death penalty if convicted.
"The charges allege that the five accused are responsible for the planning and execution of the attacks of September 11, 2001, in New York and Washington DC, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, resulting in the killing of 2,976 people," the Defense Department said in a statement.
"The convening authority referred the case to a capital military commission, meaning that, if convicted, the five accused could be sentenced to death," the statement said.
The attacks by alleged al Qaeda operatives saw the hijacking of four passenger planes, which were crashed into New York's World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
Men stand accused
The accused include the self-proclaimed mastermind of the attacks, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed. A Pakistani raised in Kuwait and educated in the United States, Mohammed, who US officials refer to as KSM, is accused of planning the attacks and training the hijackers how to use short-bladed knives by practicing on sheep and camels.
Prosecutors believe Mohammed was the military operations commander for al Qaeda's foreign operations before his capture in Pakistan in 2003. KSM has claimed responsibility for 31 attacks or planned attacks, and he told US officials he was responsible for the September 11 attacks from “A to Z." He also claimed to have beheaded Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Mohammed said in a previous court hearing that he would plead guilty and welcomed martyrdom.
The others accused include Walid bin Attash of Saudi Arabia, Yemen's Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Pakistan's Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali - also known as Ammar al-Baluchi - and Mustafa al-Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia.
All five are to appear in court to formally hear the charges against them and enter a plea within 30 days.
The pending trial, which could be months away still, is to be held at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, where the United States has set up military commissions to try terror suspects.
tm/pfd (AFP, Reuters)