Pentagon announces charges in USS Cole bombing
- Pentagon announces charges in USS Cole bombing
Jun. 30, 2008 12:02 PM
WASHINGTON - The Pentagon said Monday it is charging a Saudi Arabian with
"organizing and directing" the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole - and will seek
the death penalty.
Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Hartmann, legal adviser to the U.S. military tribunal
system, said charges are being sworn against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a
Saudi of Yemeni descent, who has been held at the military prison in
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since 2006.
The charges still must be approved by a Defense Department official who
oversees military tribunals set up for terrorism suspects.
Hartmann said the allegations include conspiracy to violate laws of war,
murder, treachery, terrorism, destruction of property and intentionally
causing serious bodily injury.
Seventeen American sailors were killed and dozens wounded when the Navy
destroyer was attacked in the Yemeni port of Aden as it refueled.
Al-Nashiri is also accused of a role in the Oct. 6, 2002, suicide attack on
the Limburg, a French oil tanker, Hartmann said. The attack killed a
Bulgarian crew member and spilled 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of
Al-Nashiri told a hearing at Guantanamo Bay last year that he confessed to
helping plot the Cole bombing only because he was tortured by U.S.
CIA Director Michael Hayden said early this year that al-Nashiri was among
terrorist suspects subjected to waterboarding in 2002 and 2003 while being
interrogated in secret CIA prisons.
Asked at a Pentagon press conference if evidence obtained from the
waterboarding is tainted, he said that would be considered at any trial.
"We will look at the evidence, all of the evidence that is associated with
the case," Hartmann said. "While there has been an admission that there was
waterboarding, there may well be other evidence in the case. That's not ...
necessarily the only part of evidence in the case."
According to U.S. intelligence, al-Nashiri was tasked by al-Qaida leader
Osama bin Laden to attack the Cole, and also was al-Qaida's operations chief
in the Arabian Peninsula until he was caught in 2002.
At a Pentagon press conference Monday, Hartmann read a charge sheet,
alleging the following against al-Nashiri:
-He is a member of al-Qaida and met with bin Laden on several occasions.
-He rented apartments overlooking the port of Aden in 1999 and houses to
prepare for the Cole attack.
-His co-conspirators failed in an attempt to blow up the USS The Sullivans
in January of 2000. Al-Nashiri and others salvaged the explosives and
refitted the boat from that plot, then he went to Afghanistan to discuss
reorganization of the plot with bin Laden.
-When the Cole entered the port on Oct. 12, 2000, al-Nashiri's
co-conspirators piloted the boat next to the U.S. ship and detonated
explosives that blasted a 40-foot hole in the Cole's side.
At his hearing last year, al-Nashiri acknowledged meeting with bin Laden
many times and received as much as a half million dollars. The money, he
said, was used for personal expenses, including for marriage and business
Al-Nashiri said he told interrogators that he used some of the money to buy
explosives used to bomb the Cole, but in reality he said he gave the
explosives to friends to help dig wells. He said he confessed to involvement
in several other terror plots in order to get the torture to stop -
including the 2002 bombing of the French oil tanker Limburg, plans to bomb
American ships in the Gulf, a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into a
ship and that bin Laden had a nuclear bomb.