WASHINGTON – Two alleged Al Qaeda operatives accused of working closely with Usama bin Laden have been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, U.S. officials announced Tuesday.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, of Sudan, was a paymaster for Al Qaeda, and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul, of Yemen, was a propagandist for bin Laden, military indictments unsealed at the Pentagon charge.
The two men are among more than 600 foreign detainees held at the U.S. Navy's Guantanamo Bay (search) prison camp in Cuba. According to the indictments, both trained in terrorist camps and served as bodyguards for bin Laden.
Their U.S. military tribunals, the first to be convened since World War II, are expected to take place at Guantanamo Bay, though the indictments do not indicate when. The brief documents also provide no documentation for the government's accusations.
Military tribunals have traditionally been used to try alleged war criminals, for example Nazi and Japanese leaders after World War II. They are similar to military courts-martial, but share some features of ordinary civilian trials.
Suspects are entitled to defense lawyers and to put on a vigorous defense. Rules of evidence are more favorable to the government, however, and the Guantanamo tribunal suspects will have only limited rights to appeal convictions.
Neither al Qosi or al Bahlul will be subject to the death penalty, but can expect long sentences if convicted, Pentagon sources said.
Al Bahlul is accused of attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, committing murder by an unprivileged belligerent, committing destruction of property by an unprivileged belligerent and terrorism.
The indictment says al Bahlul traveled to Afghanistan in 1999 to join Al Qaeda, trained in the terrorist organization's camps and swore allegiance to bin Laden.
It alleges that bin Laden personally assigned al Bahlul to work in the Al Qaeda "media office," where he created videotapes used to motivate Al Qaeda members and recruit new terror soldiers.
The indictment also contends that bin Laden ordered a video glorifying the attack on the USS Cole (search) in Yemen in 2000, which killed 17 sailors.
The video was intended to "inspire Al Qaeda members and others to continue violent attacks against property and nationals, both military and civilian, of the United States," the indictment said.
On Sept. 11, 2001, bin Laden told al Bahlul to set up a satellite connection so that bin Laden could watch televised news coverage of the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the indictment alleges.
It adds that because of the mountainous terrain surrounding bin Laden's camp in Afghanistan, al Bahlul was unable to do so.
When bin Laden went on the run after Sept. 11, al Bahlul allegedly traveled with him as a bodyguard.
"While traveling, al Bahlul was armed and wore an explosives-laden belt so that he could provide Usama bin Laden with physical security and protection," the indictment alleges.
Sudanese citizen al Qosi faces charges identical to those of al Bahlul.
Al Qosi joined what later became Al Qaeda in 1989 and remained a member until his capture in December 2001, the indictment says. He allegedly provided information and logistical support for al Qaeda cells in Sudan when the organization was based in that country.
Al Qosi allegedly traveled with bin Laden, served as a driver and quartermaster, and worked as an accountant and treasurer for a business intended to provide income and cover for Al Qaeda terror operations.
Al Qosi rose to the position of deputy chief financial officer and managed donations from charities and NGOs, the indictment alleges, adding that the funds were distributed to al Qaeda members for salary and travel expenses, as well as used to maintain training camps.
Among other activities, al Qosi signed checks on behalf of bin Laden, exchanged money on the black market and couriered money on behalf of Al Qaeda.
In 1994, he was "handpicked" by bin Laden in 1994 to serve as a bodyguard after an attempt on bin Laden's life, according to the indictment.
Fox News' Ian McCaleb and Peter Brownfeld and the Associated Press contributed to this report.