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Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (Kuwait, Al Qaeda)


Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

FBI 'most wanted' photos

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Claim to Notoriety:

Mohammad gained his claim to fame as the “mastermind” of the September 11, 2001 attacks. He has been reported as the person who approached bin Laden, in 1996, with the idea that would developed into the September 11, 2001 attacks. He remained a high profile figure throughout his detention at Guantanamo Bay as among the detainees subjected to the controversial practice, generally deemed a form of torture, of waterboarding.


Mohammad's primary objectives can be difficult to discern. He makes claims to have pledged to unite in "jihad" with bin Laden, and is but his objectives in his own description have heavily geo-political, rather than purely religious, overtones. Indeed, author Lawrence Wright noted in The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 that the two men shared almost nothing when they met in the 1980s but their mutual hatred of America. He is well known for his virulent views of Israel and is known to have been motivated by the desire to punish the U.S. for its support of Israel.

The most interesting statement of his objectives comes from his own extended statement at his tribunal to determine his enemy combatant status, in 2007. The statement, complex and garbled as it was, made it clear that Sheikh Mohammed views himself as a soldier in a war against oppression imposed on Arabs and Muslims by the United States.

Family Background & Early Years:

Mohammed was born in 1964 or 1965 and raised in Kuwait. His family is of Baluchi origins (Baluchistan is a region that transverses parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran). He attended college in the United States in the 1980s and graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina A&T University in 1986.

Life as a Militant:

Following his graduateion, Mohammed went to Afghanistan to join the mujahideen in the Afghan-Soviet war. He met Usama bin Laden while there. In 1994, Mohammed joined his nephew Ramzi Yousef in the Philippines. A year earlier, Yousef had driven an explosives-packed truck into the New York World Trade Center. Together, he and Yousef constructed ideas for a number of attacks, including the one that would evolve into the September 11, 2001 attacks.

His family has denied that their relative had anything to do with planning the attack against the United States, and viewed the charges against him as a conspiracy.

After 2001:

Much public confusion has surrounded Mohammed's capture story. It was widely reported in 2002 that he had been killed in a joint Pakistani and FBI raid in Pakistan, and buried in Karachi. He was later reported to have been arrested elsewhere. It is now understood that he was captured U.S. authorities in Rawalpindi (near Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan) in 2003 and held in secret detention until his transfer to the facility in Cuba in 2006.

In His Own Words:

Much of the information that has circulated about Mohammed's role in the 2001 attacks has come from statements he has made.

In 2007, Mohammed was brought before a Combatant Status Review tribunal, composed of military officers convened to decide whether Mohammed should be designated as an enemy combatant. At that hearing, speaking in English, Mohammed contested the way that the evidence was prepared against him, made pleas on behalf of other detainees (but not himself) who he said had made false claims under the duress of torture, and made extravagant claims for his own role in bin Laden's organization, in the September 11, 2001 attacks and in other attacks.

In total, Mohammed made 31 claims. These included claiming responsibility for the 1993 World Trade Center attacks, for "the 9/11 Operation, from A to Z," for the decapitation of Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl (the media savvy detainee also pointed out to the tribunal that "for those who would like to confirm there are pictures of me on the Internet holding his head"); for a Bali nighclub bombing and for planning attacks throughout the world, as well as assassinations of former American Presidents (he singled out President Carter).

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