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Alleged Mastermind of USS Cole Attack May Face Death Penalty

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FILE 2000: The port side damage to the guided missile destroyer USS Cole is pictured after a bomb attack during a refueling operation in the port of Aden.Reuters

Charges against the alleged mastermind of the USS Cole attack will be referred to a military commission, which enables the government to seek the death penalty, the Department of Defense announced Wednesday in a statement.

Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri allegedly planned the Oct. 12, 2000, assault in the Port of Aden that killed 17 sailors, wounded dozens and severely damaged the ship.

He also allegedly planned two more attacks, one on the USS Sullivan as it refueled in the same Yemeni port, and another on a French oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden that resulted in one crew member's death and left 90,000 barrels of oil flowing into the water.

A military judge has not been assigned to the case, but Al Nashiri will be arraigned at Guantanamo within 30 days, the statement read. 

The 46-year-old Saudi national, who was captured in 2002 in Dubai, was held at a secret CIA site in Poland between December 2002 and June 2003, and is now being held at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Open Society Justice Initiative, a New York-based human rights group, and lawyers for Al Nashiri challenged Poland for "active complicity" in the extraordinary rendition program carried out under then-President George W. Bush.

AFP reported that Al Nashiri underwent simulated drowning or waterboarding dozens of times, citing documents.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.