London, March 9: Two young sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks, are being used by the CIA to force their father to talk.
Yousef al-Khalid, nine, and his brother, Abed al-Khalid, seven, were taken into custody in Pakistan last September when intelligence officers raided a flat in Karachi where their father had been hiding. He fled just hours before the raid but his two young sons, along with another senior al-Qaida member, were found cowering behind a wardrobe in the apartment.
The boys have been held by the Pakistani authorities but this weekend they were flown to America where they will be questioned about their father.
Last night CIA interrogators confirmed that the boys were staying at a secret address where they were being encouraged to talk about their father’s activities. “We are handling them with kid gloves. After all, they are only little children,” said one official, “but we need to know as much about their father’s recent activities as possible. We have child psychologists on hand at all times and they are given the best of care.”
Their father, Mohammed, 37, is being interrogated at the Bagram US military base in Afghanistan. He is being held in solitary confinement and subjected to “stress and duress” style interrogation techniques.
He has been told that his sons are being held and he is being encouraged to divulge future attacks against the West and talk about the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
“He has said very little so far,” one CIA official said yesterday. “He sits in a trance-like state and recites verses from the Koran. But while he may claim to be a devout Muslim, we know he is fond of the Western-style fast life. His sons are important to him. The promise of their release and their return to Pakistan may be the psychological lever we need to break him.”
Known as “The Engineer,” he is suspected of being the mastermind of the Bali bombings and the man who slashed the throat of Daniel Pearl, the American reporter, in Pakistan in January 2002. Little is known of his sons’ mother, who is thought to be Pakistani. “We have no evidence that suggests she has anything to do with al-Qaida,” a Pakistani intelligence source said yesterday.
“All we know is that she is the sister of an al-Qaida member that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed met at a Pakistan college, the University of Dawa al Jihad, in the late 1980s.”