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"Soap for washing horses"

3:35 PM, Jun 9, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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Over at the Corner, Andy McCarthy notes that the trial of Ahmed Ghailani, the first Gitmo detainee transferred to the U.S. for criminal proceedings, should be a slam dunk. Some of Ghailani's co-conspirators have already been convicted for their roles in the August 1998 embassy bombings. And there is really no doubt that Ghailani was responsible for those attacks as well.

During his combatant status review tribunal, Ghailani answered several key allegations through his personal representative. In the context of his answers, as McCarthy noticed, Ghailani made devastating admissions, often in the context of absurd denials.

For example, one al Qaeda terrorist told investigators that Ghailani purchased the TNT used in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. Ghailani did not deny that he purchased the explosives, but claimed he was told "it was soap for washing horses."

Ghailani was there when his cohorts purchased the 1987 Nissan Atlas truck used in the attack, but said he did not purchase it. "I did not purchase the truck, but when they bought it, I was there." And Ghailani did not bother denying that he was present at the Ilala house, an al Qaeda safehouse where the truck bomb was assembled, or that he brought TNT to the house. But Ghailani tried to explain away his involvement:

"I brought some of these materials [note: used to construct the bomb] to the Ilala house, but I did not know what they were for. I brought the TNT and the gas cylinders to the Ilala house. I did not bring the detonators to the Ilala house. I gave the detonators to Fahad [another al Qaeda operative] at a different location. Also, I was unaware of having any fertilizer in my possession and I did not participate in the assembling - in assembling the bomb."

Ghailani purchased the mobile phone used by the al Qaeda cells in Tanzania and Kenya to communicate too. The government alleges: "The last call from this phone was placed to Kenya approximately one hour before the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. It is believed that this phone was destroyed inside the bomb delivery upon detonation outside the American embassy in Tanzania." Ghailani did not try to deny this, but claimed that he bought the phone for a friend named Mustaffa who borrowed it often and would keep it for a few days without telling Ghailani "who he called, when, why, or who called him."

Ghailani also conceded that he may have ridden in a scout vehicle used in al Qaeda's surveillance of the embassy, but claimed he did not take part in any of the scouting missions. He said that he only rode in the vehicle on other occasions.

Ghailani's story is, of course, ridiculous. But it is not uncommon for al Qaeda terrorists to dissemble the allegations against them in this fashion. Abd al-Rahim Hussain Mohammed al Nashiri, the al Qaeda terrorist responsible for the USS Cole bombing, admitted during his hearing at Gitmo that he was involved with the Cole bombers, helped them purchase the boat used in the attack, took money from Osama bin Laden, and generally consorted with al Qaeda folk. But, Nashiri said, this was all in the context of running his fishing business and arranging his marriage.

No part of either Nashiri's or Ghailani's denials is credible. Ghailani's own testimony connects him to the truck, fertilizer, detonators, TNT, gas cylinders, and cell phone used in the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania. And while there will surely be a legal fight over the admissibility of Ghailani's testimony at Gitmo, that legal wrangling says nothing about Ghailani's obvious guilt.