Confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and his four co-accused will face a federal trial in New York City -- not a military tribunal in Guantánamo, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday.
Charges against the alleged al Qaeda kingpin have not yet been filed in the Manhattan court.
But President Barack Obama's administration has decided to abandon a Pentagon prosecution and pursue the case of the mass murder case of nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001 in a civilian setting.
``They will be brought to New York -- to New York -- to answer to their alleged crimes in a courtroom just blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood,'' Holder said.
He added that he would ask prosecutors, jointly working on the case from New York City and Virginia, to seek the death penalty for all five men. ``These were extraordinary crimes so we will seek extraordinary penalties,'' he said.
Military charges seeking the death penalty in the complex conspiracy case against Mohammed, his nephew and three other men will now be withdrawn.
The announcement is a key step in Obama's commitment to close the prison camps at Guantánamo. President George W. Bush ordered the 9/11 accused and other high-value detainees moved to Cuba from secret CIA custody in 2006 to go before his administration's special tribunals.
Obama -- in Tokyo on a wide-ranging trip to Asia -- did not confirm the details of Holder's announcement but suggested his administration's plan would stand up to international scrutiny.
``I am absolutely convinced that Khalid Sheik Mohammed will be subjected to the most exacting demands of justice,'' Obama said at a joint news conference in Tokyo with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
Obama wants accused terrorists to face trial in traditional federal courts and to reserve military commission trials for other cases. His administration earlier this year moved a Tanzanian detainee -- accused as a co-conspirator in al Qaeda's 1998 U.S. Embassies bombings in East Africa -- to Manhattan for trial.
There were no immediate plans to move the five former CIA-held captives to Manhattan. Under a law that expires in September, the administration must notify Congress 45 days in advance of a Guantánamo transfer to U.S. soil for trial.
Republican critics in Congress slammed the developments as ``irresponsible.''
House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said a federal trial left open ``the possibility'' that the Sept. 11 accused ``could be found `not guilty' due to some legal technicality just blocks from Ground Zero should give every American pause.''
Military commissions created by the Bush administration, he said, ``were specifically designed to prosecute such heinous acts.''
``This decision is further evidence that the White House is reverting to a dangerous pre-9/11 mentality -- treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue and hoping for the best,'' Boehner added.
Holder also announced that Justice Department attorneys had decided to continue with the prosecutions of five other Guantánamo captives at a military commission, notably the murder trial of Canadian Omar Khadr.
It was unclear where the military commission trials would be held but Defense Department sources have told The Miami Herald that the U.S. Navy managed brig in Charleston, S.C., is a continued site of interest.