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Pakistanis Hand Over Several Key Suspects in Sept. 11 Plot

By Kamran Khan and Susan Schmidt
THE WASHINGTON POST -- karachi, pakistan

Sept. 11 planner Ramzi Binalshibh and four other al-Qaida suspects were handed over to U.S. officials Monday and whisked out of Pakistan on an unmarked CIA plane, bound for interrogation at a secret location, officials in Washington and Pakistan said.

Pakistani authorities said that in the three days they held Binalshibh, he readily admitted his involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks but refused to disclose the location of other al-Qaida operatives and hide-outs.

The plan when Binalshibh and the others were captured Friday was to take them to Afghanistan, where a number of newly captured al-Qaida figures have been transferred for interrogation, according to a U.S. government source. But U.S. officials Monday were maintaining strict secrecy about the destination.

Investigators consider Binalshibh the most important figure in the Sept. 11 plot to be apprehended so far, but his legal status remains in limbo. The White House said President Bush has not yet decided whether Binalshibh will be tried before a military tribunal.

Binalshibh, who in an interview aired last week by the Arabic-language TV network al-Jazeera boasted of having supplied money and logistical support to the 19 hijackers, would have died along with them had he not been refused a U.S. visa, investigators believe.

His own mortality still appeared much on his mind after his capture, according to sources. As Pakistanis who had interrogated him at a military facility near the Karachi airport prepared to relinquish him to U.S. custody, according to one official involved, Binalshibh demanded, “Are you taking me to the airport for my flight to death?”

He was interviewed briefly by CIA and FBI agents before being flown out of the country, according to a Pakistani official. “Americans think that it may take weeks before Ramzi’s interrogation is completed from all possible angles,” the official said.