Omar Khadr targeted U.S. troops, court hears

Omar Khadr (foreground) during a sentencing hearing Tuesday at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba.

GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA – Omar Khadr knew his father was an Al Qaeda financier, considered himself a terrorist and was proud to target U.S. service members in Afghanistan, a military judge was told Tuesday morning.

The Toronto-born detainee has pleaded guilty to five war crimes including murder for the death of U.S. Delta Force soldier Christopher Speer.

At the start of Khadr’s sentencing hearing Tuesday, prosecutor Jeff Groharing read the 50-paragraph “stipulation of fact,” that Khadr signed in agreeing to plead guilty.

The new revelations included:

•An admission that Khadr had “extensive firsthand knowledge” that his father, Ahmed Said Khadr, provided “funds in support of Al Qaeda operations.” Pakistani forces killed his father in October 2003.

•Khadr gave U.S. interrogators the location of improvised explosive devices he planted in Afghanistan. Those IEDs were later safely removed.

•At the age of 15, after undergoing “main basic” training in July 2002, Khadr joined an “explosives cell” of terrorists.

•Khadr watched U.S. convoys near the airport in Khost, Afghanistan to gather intelligence about how best to target them.

•When detained at the U.S. airbase in Bagram, Khadr would recall his killing of Speer when he would get “pissed off” with the guards.

Forensic psychiatrist Michael Welner was one of the prosecution’s first witnesses and testified Tuesday afternoon that he had met Khadr here over a couple of days to assess whether he was at risk of being a “violent jihadist” or whether he could be rehabilitated and reintegrated into Western life.

Welner said he believed Khadr was “angry” and did not show remorse for killing Speer. Living in a prison camp that is “marinated in radical jihadism,” Welner said Khadr has emerged as a devout leader. He called him the “rock star at Gitmo.”

The court broke briefly for afternoon prayer time and is expected to resume with Welner’s testimony Tuesday. He will not be cross-examined until Wednesday and his opinion of Khadr is expected to contrast greatly from the favourable assessment by psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, who will testify for the defence this week.

Khadr has made history as the first child soldier to be convicted for war crimes and the only captive the Pentagon has prosecuted for murder in the battlefield death of a U.S. service member in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

In addition to pleading guilty to Speer’s murder, Khadr is convicted of spying, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism.

Twelve witnesses will testify before the military jury this week at Khadr’s sentencing hearing.

Khadr has already signed a plea deal that gives him a reported eight-year sentence. One year will be served here before his transfer to Canada.

The jury is unaware that there is a plea deal and their sentence will only be applied if it is less than the agreed eight years.

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