By Tom Ramstack
FORT MEADE Md. (Reuters) - An Iraqi man accused of being a senior member of al Qaeda was formally charged by the U.S. war crimes tribunal in Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday with conspiring to bomb Western forces in Afghanistan and killing soldiers and civilians.
The man, Abd al Hadi al-Iraqi, did not enter a plea during his arraignment on five counts that also included attacking a U.S. military medical helicopter. His attorneys said they wanted to file pretrial motions before entering a plea.
Court documents filed by prosecutors described Hadi al-Iraqi as one of al Qaeda's top military operatives.
Military prosecutors contend Hadi al-Iraqi served on al Qaeda’s "senior advisory council" where he tried to acquire chemical weapons and issued orders to kill Americans and their allies. His orders also authorized al Qaeda fighters "to view civilians and medical personnel as acceptable targets," according to prosecutors.
Hadi al-Iraqi is accused of masterminding an April 25, 2003, attack on a U.S. military convoy at Shkin, Afghanistan that killed two U.S. soldiers and injured numerous others. After another one of his attacks on Oct. 25, 2003 killed two more U.S. soldiers, Hadi al-Iraqi’s fighters shot at injured coalition soldiers gathered at a casualty collection point, prosecutors said.
A roadside bomb set by Hadi al-Iraqi’s fighters killed four U.S. soldiers on May 29, 2004 at Qalat, Afghanistan, the court documents say. In a Nov. 16, 2003 attack, Hadi al-Iraqi is accused of paying Taliban fighters $200 to $300 to kill a civilian United Nations worker near Ghazni, Afghanistan.
As the proceeding started, Hadi al-Iraqi asked the judge to replace Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Callen as his defense counsel with a civilian attorney. Callen is scheduled to be released from active duty by the Army in September.
Judge Captain J. Kirk Waits agreed to the replacement.
Hadi al-Iraqi, who has a long gray beard and wore a white robe, sat quietly at a table beside his defense attorneys throughout the brief arraignment.
The arraignment was monitored by Reuters over closed-circuit television at Fort Meade, Maryland.
Hadi al-Iraqi is the 12th person accused of terrorism to be charged before the Military Commission at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.
(Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)