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New photos of alleged 9-11 mastermind may have been spirited out of 'Gitmo'

Al-Ebdaa via Flashpoint Partners

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is seen in one of the photos apparently taken at the Guantanamo detention center and published this week by an Islamist website.

U.S. military officials are investigating whether new images of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, alleged mastermind of al-Qaida’s 9-11 terror attacks, posted on a jihadist website were smuggled out of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

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The photos, which show a relaxed and often smiling Mohammed, were published Wednesday by "Al-Ebdaa," an jihadist media group, and documented by Flashpoint Partners, a global security company run by NBC News terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann.

Kohlmann said the images appear to have been taken at GTMO, the U.S. Navy base and detention facility in Cuba, where Mohammed is currently facing a military tribunal with four other alleged al-Qaida members on murder and terrorism charges in connection with the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials told NBC News on Thursday that investigators were attempting to determine if the photos were in fact taken at GTMO or had been photo-shopped. If it is determined that they are photos from GTMO, the investigators would attempt to determine how the photos could have left GTMO. 

Under GTMO regulations, unauthorized photos of detainees are not permitted to be taken or distributed. 

Mohammed and his fellow defendants, who defiantly refused to enter pleas in their initial appearance before the tribunal early this month, face a possible death penalty if they are found guilty of organizing the attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people.

Jim Miklaszewski is chief Pentagon correspondent; msnbc.com's Mike Brunker also contributed to this report.

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