Saudi at Guantanamo charged in ship attack plot

MIAMI, Dec 20 (Reuters) - Prosecutors for the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals charged a Saudi Arabian prisoner on Thursday with plotting with al Qaeda to blow up a ship off the coast of Yemen or in the Strait of Hormuz.

A Pentagon spokesman said the captive, Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed Haza al Darbi, was formally served with charges of conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism. The charges still must be approved by a Pentagon official overseeing the Guantanamo tribunals before they can proceed to trial.

Al Darbi is accused of training and teaching at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. The charges also allege that in 2001 and 2002, he traveled around the Middle East shopping for boats, global positioning devices and crewmen as part of a plot to use explosives-laden vessels to attack a ship off the coast of Yemen or in the Strait of Hormuz, which connects the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

The documents do not indicate that the plot was carried out and a Pentagon spokesman said he did not know whether it came to fruition.

In earlier documents filed in U.S. federal court, defense attorneys said Darbi denied being a member of the Taliban or al Qaeda, and denied committing any violent acts against the United States or any acts of international terrorism.

He is the fifth prisoner charged in the revised Guantanamo tribunal system created in 2006, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an earlier version as illegal. (Reporting by Jane Sutton, editing by Patricia Zengerle)