Details Emerge on Threat to U.S. Stations

Alleged terrorist pleads guilty to plan to bomb gas stations, bridges

Carole Donoghue, Petroleum Editor

Majid Khan

WASHINGTON -- An alleged member of the al-Qaeda terrorist network has pled guilty to war crimes, including plotting to blow up tanks at gas stations in the United States.

Majid Khan, a 32-year-old from Pakistan who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for nearly a decade, entered his plea at a military tribunal. He has promised to cooperate with the government and testify against other detainees in exchange for a lighter sentence.

According to government intelligence reports accessed by CSP Daily News, top al-Qaeda operational coordinator Khalid Sheik Mohammed told interrogators that Khan had suggested placing timed explosive devices inside underground tanks. Mohammed hadn't been too keen, thinking that such an attack would only cause a fire, not a large and lethal explosion. Instead, he ordered Majid to gather more information about stations, tanker trucks and deliveries, say the reports.

Khan, whose father is said to have owned a station in the United States, failed to provide the specific information Mohammed asked for. Mohammed then told a relative of Kahn's in the United States to get hold of specialized machine tools that could be used to loosen the nuts and bolts of suspension bridges in the New York City area. The relative, described by intelligence officials as a commercial truck driver based in Ohio, told Mohammed in March 2002 that he couldn't obtain the tools and, according to Mohammed, contact was then broken off.

Khan, who went to high school in suburban Baltimore, told interrogators that he was supposed to have collected information by assuming the role of a businessman who wanted to buy a station. He claimed that he had already found one weak spot at retail sites--caps on underground tanks can be easily opened, he said.

According to the intelligence reports, several detained al-Qaeda network operatives have commented during interviews on Mohammed's interest in attacking stations or bridges.

Another captured high-level al-Qaeda member, Ramzi Binalshibh, told investigators that Mohammed had wanted to blast stations and bridges at the same time that the September 11 attacks were launched in 2001; however, Osama bin Laden discouraged carrying out both plans on the same day. Binalshibh also said that Mohammed had planned to send several teams of operatives to the New York and Washington, D.C., to target stations for vehicle-borne explosive attacks.

Kahn, who also admitted to a plot to assassinate former Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf and to provide assistance to al-Qaeda, agreed to never sue the U.S. government for his treatment.