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Guantánamo captive apologizes for bomb

A Tanzanian captive at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, admitted to unwittingly helping al Qaeda operatives bomb the U.S. Embassy in his homeland a decade ago, according to a transcript released by the Pentagon Friday.

''It was without my knowledge what they were doing, but I helped them,'' Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, about 33, told a panel of military officers at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, during a 46-minute hearing a week ago, March 17.

``So I apologize to the United States government for what I did. And I'm sorry for what happened to those families who lost, who lost their friends and their beloved ones.''

When the White House announced in September that Ghailani and 13 other so-called high value detainees were transferred to Guantánamo for possible trial, it said he had been on the FBI's Most Wanted list for the August 1998 embassy bombing.

About 200 people, 12 of them Americans, were killed in coordinated car bombings of the embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya; 11 of the victims were killed at the embassy in Tanzania, mostly in the parking lot, when a truck bomb leveled more than half the embassy.

The Pentagon's release Friday of the 19-page transcript was the fifth of 14 hearings it is holding of so-called high-value detainees amid a news blackout on the proceedings, called Combatant Status Review Tribunals.

In it, a panel of senior U.S. military officers review allegations against the captive and determine whether he is properly classified as an ''enemy combatant,'' a precursor to any possible trial by Military Commissions designed by the Bush administration and endorsed by Congress.

In an earlier hearing, reputed self-confessed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed claimed he had been tortured in U.S. custody. All 14 men arrived at Guantánamo in September after up to four years of secret detention and interrogation by the CIA.

But the Zanzibar-born Ghailani makes no such claim in his transcript, which was released with only minor redactions by the Pentagon -- striking the U.S. military participants' names.

In fact, after taking a Muslim oath to tell the truth that invoked the name of Allah, he told the Navy captain he admitted to the activities without force or coercion.

Ghailani claims in his narrative that he did not conduct surveillance on the U.S. Embassy prior to the attack of Aug. 7, 1998, contrary to the allegations made against him. But, he said, he did assist in delivering the explosives that turned a Nissan pickup into a lethal truck bomb.

Moreover, he said, he didn't realize the U.S. Embassy was the target and instead believed the explosives were bound for a diamond mine in Somalia, as well as a ''training camp'' in Somalia. He did not elaborate.

Ghailani said he joined al Qaeda only after the 1998 embassy blast when fellow bombers took him to Afghanistan, where he trained in detonation skills at an al Qaeda camp called Farouk.

He described al Qaeda training in almost matter-of-fact terms, saying he wanted to get some military skills because of various conflicts in Africa.

He also said he worked as an al Qaeda document forger, preparing fake passports for fellow al Qaeda members to move between countries across international borders.

He said he had met both Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheik Mohammed in Afghanistan, but never swore an Islamic oath toward bin Laden as emir of a worldwide anti-American movement.

He fled to Pakistan after the 9/11 attacks, with fellow al Qaeda members, and was captured in 2004, he said.

In advance of the hearing, according to the transcript, he sought to call another U.S.-held captive as a witness to refute an identification, claiming he had been confused with another man named Ahmed who actually had a hand in making the embassy bomb.

The witness, identified in the transcript as Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, is incarcerated in the United States and declined to offer help. But he left open the possibility he might help in the future, the transcript said.