Suspect in 9/11 Attacks Seeks Death

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- The accused al-Qaida mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks stood in a U.S. military court on Thursday, sang a chant of praise to Allah and said he would welcome the death penalty.

"This is what I wish, to be martyred," Pakistani captive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the highest-ranking al-Qaida operative in U.S. custody, told the Guantanamo war crimes court. He and four accused co-conspirators appeared in court for the first time on charges that could result in their execution.

As the judge tried to question him about whether he was satisfied with the U.S. military lawyer appointed to defend him, Mohammed stood and began to sing in Arabic, cheerfully pausing to translate his own words into English.

"My shield is Allah most high," he said, adding that his religion forbade him from accepting a U.S. lawyer and that he wanted to act as his own lawyer.

He criticized the United States for fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, waging what he called "a crusader war," and enacting illegal laws including those authorizing same-sex marriages.

Mohammed looked old and portly and wore a long, bushy gray beard and big black military-issue glasses. He wore a neat white tunic and turban.

Mohammed is charged with committing terrorism and conspiring with al-Qaida to murder civilians. He also faces 2,973 counts of murder, one for each person killed in the hijacked passenger planes in 2001.