Guantanamo prisoner claims Saudi 'royal' involved in 9/11 attacks
An accused al-Qaeda bomb-maker told officials at the US base in Guantanamo Bay that he believed a member of the Saudi royal family attempted to recruit him for terrorist acts before the 9/11 attacks.
Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi said a religious figure in Saudi Arabia used the term "your highness" during a telephone conversation, before urging Sharbi to return to the US and take part in a plot that would involve learning to fly a plane.
The Sept 11 commission found there was no evidence to indicate that the Saudi government as an institution or Saudi senior officials individually had supported the attacks, and the kingdom's government has consistently denied it had any role in the plot.
It was early 2001, and Sharbi had only recently returned from the US, where he had taken some flight school courses in Phoenix with two men who would become hijackers in the 9/11 attacks.
The Pentagon on Thursday posted a transcript of the conversation in June with Sharbi. The statement is convoluted and lacks important details, such as whether the "religious figure" might be close to any Saudi officials.
Sharbi also appears to be struggling with illness. He tells the board he had just come from the detainee hospital, is "really exhausted, and nauseous and lethargic," and uses what is described as a "manual breathing device."
|When captured, the FBI found a buried a cache of documents nearby, including an envelope from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that contained Sharbi's flight certificate, according to a document known as File 17.|
Congress recently approved legislation that would allow 9/11 families to sue the kingdom for any role in the plot.
Sharbi attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, from 1999-2000, according to the review board website.
In the transcript, the prisoner described living with various Americans, including a Phoenix police officer, in Arizona and California before returning to Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2000.
After telling the "religious figure" that he had some practice on a flight simulator and could learn to fly more easily than others, Sharbi says he agreed to return to the US and they began to discuss details. But Sharbi never went, for reasons that are unclear in the transcript.
The review board profile says Sharbi went to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001, trained with al-Qaeda and then went to Pakistan, where he learned how to make remote-controlled explosive devices and teach the skill to others. He was captured there in a house with Abu Zubaydah, whom the US has called an al-Qaeda "facilitator."
When captured, the FBI found a buried a cache of documents nearby, including an envelope from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that contained Sharbi's flight certificate, according to a document known as File 17, which was declassified earlier this year and names people the hijackers were in contact with in the US before the attacks, including diplomats of the kingdom.
In July, the review board declined to approve his release from Guantanamo, where he is among 61 prisoners still held.