Ahead of 9/11 anniversary, Gitmo photos of mastermind Khalid Sheikh on the web
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The first photographs of the self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind at Guantanamo Bay have cropped up on the Internet, and experts say the images of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed are being used by terrorist groups to inspire attacks against the United States.
The photographs, taken in July by the Red Cross at the Guantanamo detention centre in Cuba, show Mohammed in a white robe, a red-patterned headdress and a long salt-and-pepper beard.
They are the first known images of Mohammed since shot taken upon his capture in Pakistan in March 2003 showing him in a white T-shirt, with disheveled hair and a moustache. Since then, only courtroom sketches from his trial have been available.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which photographs Guantanamo prisoners as part of its mission to monitor their treatment, confirmed on Wednesday that it took the images in July and sent them to his family. Spokesman Bernard Barrett said the photos were given only to the family and were not intended for public release, but the organisation does not impose conditions on detainee families.
The ICRC has taken pictures of 107 inmates. Detainees are allowed to select two photographs and the ICRC sends five prints to their families, along with personal messages.
Mohammed's photos began appearing in on Internet sites that have previously been used by al-Qaeda and sympathisers to communicate with each other, said Jarret Brachman, the former research director at the Combating Terrorism Center of the US Military Academy at West Point.
Brachman, now an independent terrorism researcher based in North Dakota, said he fears the photos could breed sympathy for a man who has proudly proclaimed his role in the September 11 attacks, while also alleging he has been tortured by the US.
"What's problematic for me is it really humanises the guy," Brachman said. "I understand the value of these photos for family members, but at the same time this is the guy who planned 9/11."