Fri, Jul 16, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Bin Laden bodyguard charged with murder

DETAINEE A former associate of the al-Qaeda leader being held in Cuba has been charged with numerous crimes and faces a trial before a military commission

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US military has referred a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, held at its naval base in Cuba, for trial by a military commission on charges of conspiring to attack civilians, murder and terrorism, a Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni national, was the fourth detainee held at a US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to be referred to trial by a US military commission on terrorism charges.

"His charges include, among other things, conspiracy to commit an attack on civilians and terrorism," Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita said.

As detailed in a document released by the Pentagon, the conspiracy charges appeared to hinge entirely on Hamdan's association with bin Laden, whom he met in 1996, and other al-Qaeda figures.

The charge sheet said Hamdan ultimately became a became a bodyguard and personal driver for bin Laden, and believed the al-Qaeda leader was involved in attacks on US embassies in Africa, a US warship in Yemen and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

It did not accuse Hamdam of involvement in any specific act of terrorism.

The charge said he "willfully and knowingly joined an enterprise of persons who shared a common criminal purpose and conspired and agreed with Osama bin Laden, Saif al Adel, Ayman al Zawahari [aka `the Doctor'], Muhammad Atef [aka Abu Hafs al Masri], and other members and associates of the al-Qaeda organization, known and unknown, to commit the following offenses triable by military commission: attacking civilians; attacking civilian objects; murder by an unprivileged belligerent; destruction of property by an unprivileged belligerent; and terrorism."

It said he delivered weapons, ammunition and supplies to members of al-Qaeda and associates, and picked up weapons at Taliban warehouses and delivered them to the head of al-Qaeda's security committee, Saif al Adel.

Hamdam "purchased or ensured that Toyota HiLux trucks were available for use by the Osama bin Laden bodyguard unit tasked with protecting and providing physical security for Osama bin Laden," it said.

He also "served as a driver for Osama bin Laden and other high ranking al-Qaeda members and associates," the charge sheet said.

It said he was a driver in convoys of vehicles that carried bin Laden and his associates around the country, and accompanied him "to various al-Qaeda sponsored training camps, press conferences or lectures."

"During these trips, Osama bin Laden would give speeches in which he would encourage others to conduct `martyr missions' [meaning attacks wherein one would kill himself as well as the targets of the attack] against the Americans, to engage in war against the Americans, and to drive the `infidels' out of the Arabian peninsula," the charges said.

Hamdan received training on rifles, handguns and machine guns at al-Qaeda's al Farouq camp in Afghanistan on various occasions between November 1996 and November 2001, when he was captured, according to the charges.

The charges were referred to a panel led by US Army Colonel Peter Brownback, a retired military lawyer with 10 years experience as a military judge.

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