WASHINGTON — Professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four alleged co-conspirators are being referred to the system of military commissions for trial, a federal law enforcement official said Monday.
The decision by the Obama administration is an about-face from earlier plans to have the five go on trial in civilian federal court in New York, which created intense political opposition among Republicans and even some Democrats, particularly in New York.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity about the switch, which Attorney General Eric Holder was expected to announce at an afternoon news conference.
Republican critics have roundly assailed the administration, first for the decision in late 2009 to try the men in New York City, then for a long delay in making a decision on whether to have them face military commission justice instead.
The four alleged co-conspirators are Waleed bin Attash, a Yemeni who allegedly ran an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan; Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni who allegedly helped find flight schools for the hijackers; Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, accused of helping nine of the hijackers travel to the United States and sent them $120,000 for expenses and flight training, and Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi accused of helping the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards.
Mohammed allegedly proposed the concept for the Sept. 11 attacks to Osama bin Laden as early as 1996, obtained funding for the attacks from bin Laden, oversaw the operation and trained the hijackers in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Mohammed was born in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province and raised in Kuwait.