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September 25, 2017

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Saudi at Guantanamo pleads guilty to attack on oil tanker in Yemen

FORT MEADE, Maryland--A Saudi detainee at the U.S. prison in Guantanamo Bay pleaded guilty Thursday to terror charges in connection with the 2002 suicide bombing of a French oil tanker off Yemen.

Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al-Darbi, the brother-in-law of one of the Sept. 11, 2001 plane hijackers, admitted to planning, aiding and supporting an attack on the MV Limburg which killed a Bulgarian sailor, injured a dozen and caused a large oil spill in the Gulf of Aden.

Darbi — who has been held in Cuba for more than a decade — likely faces up to 15 more years in prison, the chief prosecutor, Army Brigadier General Mark Martins, said in a statement.

Some of that time could be served in his native Saudi Arabia.

Wearing a white button-down shirt and a fluorescent yellow tie and headphones carrying simultaneous Arabic translation, the stout Saudi with a sparse beard admitted to being an "alien unprivileged enemy belligerent."

His lawyer Ramzi Kassem announced his client was pleading guilty to charges of terrorism and to attacking civilians and civilian targets before the U.S. military judge at Guantanamo.

"This moment is bittersweet," said Kassem, whose client agreed to cooperate with prosecutors as part of the plea deal.

They accuse Darbi of having met with and worked for fellow Saudi Guantanamo detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who faces the death penalty on charges he masterminded the MV Limburg attack and the 2000 attack against the USS Cole in Yemen that left 17 dead.

By pleading guilty, Darbi, 39, could become a key witness against Nashiri, whose trial is likely to open in September.

Darbi "has pledged to be law-abiding and to cooperate fully and truthfully with authorities," Martins said, adding that soon after his arrest, Darbi began "divulging some useful information to authorities about his involvement in terrorist activities."

Setting up the Attack

Speaking a mix of Arabic and English, Darbi admitted supplying visas, boats and other necessary equipment to those who carried out the attack on the MV Limburg.

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