The long-stalled war crimes trial of five men being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on charges of planning and aiding the September 11 terrorist attacks will begin in 2021.

Air Force Colonel W. Shane Cohen set the start date in an order setting motion and evidentiary deadlines in a case that has been bogged down in pretrial litigation.

The five defendants were arraigned in May 2012.

In setting the January 11 2021, start, Mr Cohen noted that the trial at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “will face a host of administrative and logistics challenges”.

The US has charged the five with war crimes that include terrorism, hijacking and nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged roles planning and providing logistical support to the September 11 plot.

They could get the death penalty if convicted at the military commission, which combines elements of civilian and military law.

The five defendants include Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, a senior al-Qaida figure who has portrayed himself as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks and other terrorist plots.

Mohammad and his four co-defendants have been held at Guantanamo since September 2006 after several years in clandestine CIA detention facilities following their capture.

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