MADRID -- The suspected coordinator of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is being held at the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and has told investigators he met with the lead hijacker, a Spanish newspaper reported yesterday.
El Pais, the country's largest daily newspaper, said Ramzi Binalshibh, who was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002, acknowledged meeting Mohamed Atta of Egypt in July 2001, two months before the attacks in the United States.
The story cites an FBI report given to Spain's Civil Guard as its source. The Civil Guard is the national police force.
A US official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, declined to comment yesterday on Binalshibh's whereabouts or other details in the El Pais report. A spokesman for the US Embassy said "this information didn't come from us."
The Civil Guard could not be reached for comment yesterday. An Interior Ministry spokesman who declined to identify himself said yesterday that no one was available to comment.
Binalshibh was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002 and was known to be in US custody, but his location has been kept secret. Defendants in at least two trials stemming from the Sept. 11 attacks have been denied access to Binalshibh.
US federal prosecutors in the trial of alleged Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui have said national security would be gravely harmed if details were disclosed about the sensitive interrogations of Binalshibh and other suspected Al Qaeda operatives.
Binalshibh is a Yemeni who lived in Hamburg with Atta and failed four times to get a US entry permit. He also wired money to Moussaoui.
The July 2001 meeting between Binalshibh and Atta in Tarragona, in northeastern Spain near Barcelona, has long been suspected but not proved. Both men were known to be there at that time.
According to El Pais, information from his interrogation at Guantanamo led to the arrest last week in Murcia, southeastern Spain, of Khaled Madani of Algeria.
Madani allegedly is a forger who sold Binalshibh a false passport he used to leave Spain on Sept. 7, 2001, for Athens; Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Kabul, Afghanistan, where he allegedly met Osama bin Laden.