Published January 22, 2010
All charges have been withdrawn in the military commissions against the five suspects in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks being held at Guantanamo Bay.
The charges were dropped "without prejudice," according to the Defense Department -- a procedural move that allows federal officials to transfer the men to trial in a civilian court and also leaves the door open, if necessary, to bring charges again in military commissions.
"This action comes in light of the announcement by the attorney general of the United States that the Department of Justice intends to pursue a prosecution ... in federal court in the Southern District of New York," says a release from the Defense Department.
Currently no suspects stand charged in the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11. U.S. officials sent notification to Congress and families of 9/11 victims Friday afternoon. The order dropping charges was made Thursday.
"This action is a procedural step, which is part of a normal process, when an alternative forum is chosen," according to the Defense Department.
The Obama administration decided in November to remove the five suspects -- including self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- from a military trial after $100 million was spent on their prosecution and on the construction of a state-of-the-art courthouse at Guantanamo Bay built specifically to facilitate their military commissions.
One source familiar with the decision told Fox News that officials have not given the all-important 45-day transfer notification to Congress, indicating that the men will not be on U.S. soil imminently.
But as of Friday afternoon, the five suspects -- Mohammed and alleged co-conspirators Walid bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa al-Hawsawi -- were one step closer to a civilian trial in New York.
Similar actions were taken in May 2009 against Ahmed Ghailani, an alleged Al Qaeda member and participant in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Ghailani was then transferred to trial in federal court in New York, the first Guantanamo detainee to face civilian charges in the U.S.
Fox News' Catherine Herridge contributed to this report.