Pak raid netted al Qaeda "how-to-hijack" notes

Noor Uthman Muhammed was held in 2002 with senior al Qaeda figure Zubaydah.

Last Updated: Feb 18, 2011, 09:18 AM IST

Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base: A stash of how-to manuals for bombs, poisons and airplane hijackings was found in a Pakistan house where Guantanamo prisoner Noor Uthman Muhammed was captured, according to evidence presented on Thursday to a US war crimes tribunal.

Noor, a Sudanese prisoner who goes by his first name, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges of conspiring with al Qaeda and providing material support for terrorism.

Military jurors at his sentencing hearing heard evidence on Thursday about the safe house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, where Noor was captured in 2002 with accused senior al Qaeda figure Abu Zubaydah.

Noor cooked and kept house for the group of men who had fled paramilitary training camps in Afghanistan after the US invasion. Prosecutors and defence lawyers stipulated that Noor did not know the scope or details of any al Qaeda attacks, but he admitted his actions made him a co-conspirator.

Items seized from the Faisalabad house included a notebook with a diagram of a timing circuit for detonating roadside bombs and manuals for making mustard gas and poisons.

Another manual instructed airplane hijackers to storm and break down the cockpit door, while colleagues turned the first-class cabin into "a holding and killing room" to dispose of the crew.

"The psychological impact of beheading is much deeper than killing by shooting," the manual advised.

Also seized were a diary and a videotape in which Zubaydah listed Americans, Britons, Christians, Jews, Hindus, apostates and atheists as enemies of Allah who should be killed.

In the video, shown for the first time in a Guantanamo courtroom, Zubaydah says he wholeheartedly supported "the truly magnificent operation at the Trade Centre on Manhattan”.

Zubaydah said that after the United States invaded Afghanistan he gathered up militants two by two according to their specialties, in a sort of Noah`s ark operation to move them to a new base of operations in Pakistan.

Noor`s sealed plea agreement calls for him to cooperate in future prosecutions. That is thought to be aimed at least partly at Zubaydah, who is being held as a "high value" prisoner at Guantanamo.

Prosecutors called Zubaydah a terrorist facilitator who funnelled recruits to paramilitary training camps then helped send them on their way to carry out attacks, providing forged visas, passports and money.

Noor admitted he gave small-arms training to recruits at the Khaldan paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan, and said he should have realised some would go on to become al Qaeda operatives in the United States.

But, he said, "I have never been a member of the Taliban or al Qaeda. I have never planned or participated in any terrorist attack."

Noor`s visibly pregnant US military lawyer read a statement in which Noor described growing up as a poor, uneducated orphan in Port Sudan, where Mecca-bound pilgrims told him he had a duty to help defend fellow Muslims who were being killed in Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Noor, who is about 44, also described his treatment during nine years of US custody, first at the Bagram base in Afghanistan and later at Guantanamo. He said he was hooded and chained in painful positions, subjected to extreme heat and cold and loud music, and stripped naked in front of female interrogators. He said he lost two teeth to a rifle butt.

"I have done my best to be a compliant prisoner," said Noor, a small gray-bearded man in a white skull cap and tunic.

He asked the jury to let him go home soon "so that I can live out the rest of my days peacefully”.

A White House spokesman said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama was still committed to closing the Guantanamo prison. However, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Thursday that prospects for that were "very, very low" given broad opposition in the US Congress.

Bureau Report