Image: Majid Khan
AP, file
Majid Khan is seen in a 1999 family photo. He has been accused of plotting to blow up underground fuel tanks in the U.S. and scheming to assassinate then President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/16/2012 6:23:46 AM ET 2012-02-16T11:23:46

A Pentagon legal official has approved war crimes charges for a Maryland-raised detainee at Guantanamo who is accused of joining al-Qaida and taking part in a series of post-Sept. 11 terror plots.

Majid Khan, 31, a Pakistan citizen, faces up to life in prison if convicted of charges that include murder, attempted murder and providing material support for terrorism.

The Pentagon's Convening Authority approved the charges on Wednesday, two days after they were filed by military prosecutors, a process that has taken months of review in the past.

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That approval means the prisoner must be arraigned within 30 days before a military judge at the U.S. base in Cuba. The date of the arraignment has not yet been announced.

Khan lived as a child in the suburbs of Baltimore, graduating from high school in 1999 and working at gas stations in the area owned by his family.

Not a 'jokester'
According to Janis Sanford, a teacher at Khan's high school Owings Mills, he was studious and interested in computers in his youth.

"It doesn't make any sense to me ... I can't imagine it. He wasn't one of these kinds of fool-around kids. He just seemed serious ... He wasn't a light-hearted jokester," she told The Washington Post in 2006.

Khan's father told the Post then that his son was not a terrorist, saying "I don't accept this." However, he also said his son "has been brainwashed."

Prosecutors say he joined al-Qaida on a trip to his homeland, working directly with senior members of the terrorist organization, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

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The military has accused Khan of plotting with Mohammed to blow up underground fuel tanks in the U.S. and scheming to assassinate then President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan.

The charges allege that Khan strapped on an explosives vest and waited in a mosque in Karachi, Pakistan, where he planned to blow up himself and Musharraf in a 2002 assassination plot that failed when Musharraf did not show up.

Torture allegations
Khan also allegedly delivered $50,000 to help pay for the al-Qaida bombing of a J.W. Marriott hotel in Indonesia in August 2003, an attack that killed 11 people and wounded 81.

He was captured in March 2003 and held in a clandestine CIA prison, where his lawyers say he was tortured.

Khan was transferred in September 2006 to Guantanamo, where he has been held in a special prison for captives considered "high value."

He was with two of his lawyers, Wells Dixon and Katya Jestin, when he was served with the charges at Guantanamo Monday.

"We are reviewing the charges, and will represent Majid throughout this process," Dixon and Jestin said in a statement. "Majid is doing well considering these challenging circumstances."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Photos: Guantanamo Bay detention center

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  1. A U.S. military guard arrives for work at Camp Delta in the Guantanamo Bay detention center on March 30, 2010. Two days after his inauguration in January 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the facility in one year and review each detainee’s case individually, but he has missed the deadline by months and has struggled to transfer, try or release the remaining detainees. (These pictures have been reviewed by the U.S. military.) (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Detainees prepare to eat lunch at Camp 6 in the Guantanamo Bay detention center on March 30, 2010. The U.S. military currently holds 183 detainees at Guantanamo, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The detention center has held nearly 780 detainees in an assortment of camps that were built to accommodate different levels of security. In Camp 6, detainees spend at least 22 hours a day in single-occupancy cells. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. In this picture, a detainee stands in Guantanamo’s Camp 6, his face obscured by a wire fence. There are strict rules on the publication of photographs of detainees – any distinguishing features or clear pictures of detainees’ faces are not allowed past Guantanamo’s gates. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A detainee reads a magazine in the library at Camp 6. One of the obstacles President Obama faces in shutting down the detention facility is that Congress has blocked funding for a plan that would transfer some detainees to a prison in the United States. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Department of Justice is currently reviewing each detainee’s case individually and categorizing them into three groups: those who face trial, those who will be transferred to detention facilities in other countries, and those who are deemed a danger but cannot released or tried because of sensitive evidence – and must continue to be held. There are 48 detainees in this category. Here, detainees prepare to eat lunch at Camp 6. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. In this photo, a detainee attends a class in "life skills" inside Camp 6. In November 2009, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other Sept. 11 suspects would be prosecuted in a federal court in New York City, setting off a heated debate that put the White House on the defense and has forced it to reconsider the plan. The Obama administration has also designated six detainees for trial by military tribunal, including Canadian Omar Khadr, whose trial will be the first at Guantanamo during the Obama presidency. (Brennan Linsley / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A U.S. Navy guard prepares to escort a detainee after a "life skills" class in Camp 6. Meantime, the war crimes tribunal convened in Guantanamo on April 28, 2010, to decide what evidence can be used against Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who was just 15 when he was detained in Afghanistan in 2002. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Congressional Republicans and some Democrats oppose the plan to prosecute detainees in federal courts because that would give suspects full U.S. legal rights and could lead to the release of dangerous terrorists. Supporters, however, say military courts unfairly limit defendants’ rights and contend that federal courts are just as capable of bringing suspects to justice. In this photo, U.S. Army guards are briefed at the Guantanamo Bay detention center on March 30, 2010. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. A U.S. Army soldier patrols past a guard tower at Camp Delta. A final difficulty in closing the detention facility is skepticism about how well some countries would monitor and rehabilitate detainees transferred there – and whether they would be at risk of being recruited into terror networks. Yemen, in particular, is under scrutiny after the failed Christmas Day airplane bombing by Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who is believed to have been trained by al-Qaida in Yemen. The Obama administration has since suspended all transfers to Yemen. (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Video: Extended interview with former Guantanamo detainee Lakhdar Boumediene

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