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9/11 terrorist mastermind, 4 others could get plea deal from US gov’t 21 years after attack

Khalid Sheik Mohammed (Photo courtesy Jarret Brachman via Miami Herald/TNS)
September 12, 2022

The accused mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, may avoid the death penalty with a plea deal, according to a new report on Sunday.

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On Sunday — the 21st anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people — CBS News reported U.S. military prosecutors and attorneys for Mohammed and four other 9/11 defendants had begun negotiating a plea deal.

The 9/11 Commission Report, published in 2004, lists Mohammed as the “principal architect” of the coordinated terrorist attack that saw 19 Al-Qaeda hijackers seize control of four airliners. Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and a third crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. while the fourth airliner crashed in rural Pennsylvania after passengers fought with the hijackers.

Mohammed is the chief defendant in the alleged plea deal negotiations. The four additional defendants include Ramzi Binalshibh, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Walid bin Attash and Ammar al-Baluchi.

Mohammed and the other defendants are charged with terrorism, hijacking and 2,976 counts of murder for the roles they are accused of playing in the 9/11 attacks.

The possible plea negotiations come as Mohammed’s trial has seen multiple delays.

The trials against the accused 9/11 plotters have also been stalled over delays in access to evidence kept by the CIA. Mohammed’s lawyers have raised the issue of his alleged torture in CIA custody so far during the court proceedings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the trial delays.

James Connell, a defense attorney for one of the four other accused 9/11 plotters told CBS News, “All five defendants and the government are all engaged in good faith negotiations, with the idea of bringing this trial which has become a forever trial to an end.”

Families of the 9/11 victims were angered upon hearing about the possible plea agreements.

Debra Burlingame, whose brother and pilot Charles Burlingame was killed when they crashed his plane into the Pentagon, told CBS she had spoken with family members of other 9/11 victims.

“The families are outraged,” Burlingame said. “They don’t want closure, they want justice.”

“We’ve reached a point in our country where we just don’t seem to have … the courage of our convictions,” Burlingame said.

When asked if it would be possible to have forgiveness she said, “Yes, but not for them . . . You have to truly take responsibility for what you’ve done. And they will never do that.”