A Guantanamo Bay detainee suspected of working as a bomb maker for al-Qaida, testified this summer that he was recruited into terrorism by an unnamed member of the Saudi royal family before 9/11.
The detainee, 41-year-old, Ghassan Abdallah al-Sharbi, said he overheard a telephone conversation in which a religious leader used the phrase “your highness” during a telephone call, just before pressuring Sharbi to move back to the United States and execute terror plots.
“I remember, ‘yes, your highness, yes your highness,’ and he was talking to him about me,” Sharbi said.
The religious leader told Sharbi participating in the terror plot would require learning to pilot a plane, The Associated Press reports.
Sharbi lived in Arizona from 1999-2000, where he went to school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with two men, who would later become 9/11 hijackers.
Sharbi agreed to return to the United States after urging from the religious leader. He never did and was instead picked up in Pakistan in 2002 and subsequently shipped to Guantanamo Bay.
Terrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann reviewed the 28-page transcript released by the Pentagon and argued that because the Saudi royal family is so large, al-Sharbi’s account of royal support is not out of the question.
“The Saudi royal family is quite large and diverse, and it is no secret that various members were once reputed for their patronage of Islamist causes and charities,” Kohlmann told The Associated Press. “In that light, it is hardly ridiculous that Sharbi would have encountered a Saudi royal who sympathized with al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden.”
Despite mention of a plan, the September 11 commission found no evidence of participation by the Saudi government, or any of its major officials.
Yet, in September, Congress approved a bill to allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia for any part it may have planned in the attacks.
Sharbi was determined in July to be too dangerous to release. He is one of 61 detainees with the same status.
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