Four months after retaliation for the 9/11 attacks he masterminded brought devastation to al Qaeda’s haven in Afghanistan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was living openly in neighboring Karachi, Pakistan and taking leisurely walks with his new prize recruit – a young computer geek from Maryland who wanted to join the jihad.
They talked about how Majid Shoukat Khan might poison water wells in the United States and blow up his family’s gas station. Mohammed was especially enthusiastic about using his young associate to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, perhaps by sneaking a suicide bomber into Khan’s planned arranged wedding to the daughter of a prominent Pakistani general.
The marriage never happened, and another Musharraf assassination plot fizzled, but the two continued to meet and scheme for more than a year. Mohammed’s patient grooming of his young associate ultimately paid off: Khan delivered $50,000 to al Qaeda associates for deadly attacks in Indonesia. And during trips back to the United States, he helped other al Qaeda operatives that Mohammed had dispatched on secret missions.
Those plots were publicly disclosed by the U.S. government several months ago as part of its effort to bring charges against Mohammed and four other men for their alleged roles in the 9/11 attacks.
Mohammed, his nephew Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Walid bin Attash appeared in court for arraignment on Saturday in the U.S.-run detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The charges could make them the first defendants to be executed by the U.S. military in more than 50 years.