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Last Updated: Monday, 19 March 2007, 17:56 GMT
USS Cole suspect 'admits guilt'
USS Cole after being hit by bombers in Yemen in 2000
The attack on the USS Cole left 17 sailors dead
A suspect in the bombing of the USS Cole warship in Yemen has confessed to the attack, the Pentagon has said.

Walid Mohammad bin Attash is said to have made his confession in a hearing at Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba.

Seventeen sailors died and 37 were hurt when the Cole was rammed by suicide bombers in the port of Aden in 2000.

Mr Attash also said he helped plan the 1998 bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 213, the Pentagon said.

US HEARING TRANSCRIPT

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Partial transcripts of the alleged admission made during a closed-door hearing were released by the US defence department.

The US hearings have been widely criticised by lawyers and human rights groups as sham tribunals, with no chance for the defendants to get a fair trial.

Mr Attash is one of 14 "high value" detainees transferred in September from secret CIA prisons abroad to Guantanamo Bay.

The hearing was held to determine whether Mr Attash was an "enemy combatant", which could lead to a military trial.

'Key link'

The alleged al-Qaeda operative is reported to have said he bought the explosives and recruited members of the team that rammed an explosives-laden boat into the USS Cole while it was refuelling.

US embassy in Nairobi following bomb attack in August 1998 (file photo)

"I put together the plan for the operation a year and a half prior to the operation," Mr Attash told a military panel, according to the transcripts.

Asked where he was at the time of the attack, Mr Attash reportedly said he was with al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

According to the transcripts, Mr Attash also said he served as a key liaison in Pakistan between Bin Laden and the cell chief in Nairobi for the embassy bombings in east Africa.

"I was the link that was available in Pakistan. I used to supply the cell with whatever documents they need - from fake stamps to visas, whatever," he said in the transcripts.

In the 1998 near-simultaneous attacks, suicide bombers detonated trucks loaded with explosives outside the embassies, killing 213 people in Nairobi and 12 in Dar Es Salaam.

Hearings continue

The US military has conducted seven hearings so far of the 14 top suspects.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Mr Mohammed is believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks
Transcripts have been released for hearings concerning senior al-Qaeda suspects Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Ramzi Binalshibh.

Mr Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks admitted his role in them, and 30 other terror plots, according to the Pentagon.

Ramzi Binalshibh, described as the co-ordinator of 9/11, refused to take any part in the proceedings, and was described as "uncooperative and unresponsive".

Mr Libbi did not appear at the hearing but submitted a statement saying he would be keen to engage in a full legal process if he were provided with a lawyer and if witnesses were protected.






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