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CNN SATURDAY

Profile of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Aired March 1, 2003 - 15:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: And returning now to our top story, the arrest in Pakistan of top al Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, considered one of the key planners of the September 11 attacks. He has been linked to nearly every major al Qaeda attack in the past ten years.
And there are few journalists in the world who have done as much reporting on this man as CNN's own Maria Ressa, CNN's Jakarta bureau chief. She joins us by telephone from Manila -- Maria.

MARIA RESSA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed first appeared on the radar screen of authorities around the world in 1995. He was part of a Manila cell, busted then, that planned to bomb 11 U.S. airliners coming from Asia headed to the United States.

Police here remember Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as a man who masqueraded as a Saudi sheik, a playboy of sorts. He had a Filipino girlfriend in the Philippines. He also went SCUBA diving. He was spending a lot of money in the region.

Well, what they didn't know, however, was that the cell that he had put together included his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who was the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and that that cell put together what officials here believe was the blueprint for the 9/11 attacks.

Here's more about what Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has done since then.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RESSA (voice-over): Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the world's most wanted men, carrying a reward of $25 million. For years, these were the only two known pictures of him.

He is the head of al Qaeda's military committee, one of four key lieutenants of Osama bin Laden. U.S. authorities say he is a key planner for the September 11 attacks.

The blueprint goes back to 1995, when Mohammed lived in the Philippines, officials here say. He established a cell here with multiple plots against the U.S., to bomb American plans, assassinate Bill Clinton and hijack and crash planes into buildings in the U.S.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is educated. He can speak fluent English. I think he has some skills in flying and also SCUBA diving.

RESSA: Mendoza interrogated a member of Mohammed's cell, who told him attacks would move beyond one suicide bomber to bigger operations by land, sea and air, a foreshadowing of al Qaeda attacks Mohammed would be involved in: the 1998 bombs of the U.S. embassies in east Africa, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and less than a year later, September 11.

Mohammed was finishing the groundwork in 1999, meeting with one group of September 11 hijackers in Germany and a few months later the second group in Malaysia.

Asian sources tell CNN he was also planning ahead, sending this man, Mohammed Mansour Jawarah to activate cells in southeast Asia one day before the September 11 attacks.

Jawarah worked with al Qaeda's senior representative in the region, Omar al-Farouk, to push local cells to acquire a goal of 21 tons of explosives to be used for suicide bombing attacks against U.S. and western interests in the region.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

RESSA: More has been found out about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed since then. He's been linked to the Tunisian truck bombing attack in April 2002 as well as the Bali attacks of October 2002.

And as we just said, he was planning -- intelligence documents that we've obtained showed as he was working on the final details of September 11, Mohammed had already thought ahead, setting in place an attack in southeast Asia, suicide truck bomb attacks against U.S. embassies and other Wall Street interests in the region. That has been thwarted with the arrest of his operatives then.

Back to you, Carol.

LIN: All right, thank you very much, Maria Ressa. Great reporting there on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

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