Nine years after his capture and a decade after the United States first authorized military tribunals for terrorist suspects, the alleged mastermind of the deadly bombing of the USS Cole will face a judge in the Guantanamo war crimes tribunal.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, a 46-year-old Saudi of Yemeni descent, is to be arraigned Wednesday on charges that include murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and terrorism.
He is the first high-ranking al-Qaeda figure to face charges at Guantanamo under the Obama administration and could face the death penalty if convicted. But attorneys expect it will be a year or two before the case goes to trial.
Nashiri is accused of conspiring with Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders to bomb US targets, including embassies in Africa and ships in the Gulf of Aden.
In the attack on the Cole in October 2000, two suicide bombers in civilian garb waved at the crew and then drove their boat full of explosives into the side of the warship as it refueled in the Port of Aden. The blast tore a 30ft hole in the ship, killing 17 US sailors and wounding three dozen more.
Nashiri, described by US investigators as al-Qaeda's one-time head of operations in the Arabian Peninsula, is accused of planning and preparing the attack, choosing the suicide bombers and helping buy the boat and explosives.
He is accused of plotting similar boat-bomb attacks on another US warship and a French oil tanker off Yemen. The January 2000 attack on the other warship, the USS The Sullivans, failed when the would-be suicide bombers ran their boat aground. The October 2002 attack on the tanker, the MV Limburg, killed a crewman and dumped 90,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf of Aden.
Nashiri is also accused of providing a fake passport to a suspect in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
An al-Qaeda operative quoted in the 9-11 Commission report described Nashiri as widely known to be one of al-Qaeda's most committed terrorists, "extreme in ferocity in waging jihad."
Nashiri claimed to have become a millionaire as a merchant trader. He lived for a while with a Russian woman in Dubai, according to a former FBI agent who investigated the Cole bombing.
Nashiri was captured in Dubai in 2002 and held in secret CIA prisons before being sent to Guantanamo in 2006.
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