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Context of 'Early 2000-2001: Italian Wiretaps Expose Militants’ European Network'

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German intelligence unsuccessfully attempts to turn Mohammed Haydar Zammar into an informant. In 1996, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, learned that Zammar had extensive Islamist militant ties (see 1996). In 1997, the BfV starts an investigation into Islamist militants in Hamburg that is centered on Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000). Apparently, as part of this investigation, two BfV officials meet with him twice and attempt to get him to become an informant. However, Zammar strongly rejects the proposal. He says he will not serve the West, but will only serve Allah and jihad. However, he is careful to note that he is only interested in jihad outside of Germany, because under German law at this time it is not illegal to be a member of a violent militant group as long as all the violence takes place outside of Germany. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005] German intelligence will continue monitoring Zammar and many of his associates in Hamburg (see for instance March 1997-Early 2000, October 2, 1998, and July 2001).

Entity Tags: Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Apparently, this is news video of Mohammed Haydar Zammar taken shortly after 9/11.Apparently, this is news video of Mohammed Haydar Zammar taken shortly after 9/11. [Source: UE-TV]An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany refuses to disclose additional details). The investigation is called Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), and it was started by a tip about Mohammed Haydar Zammar from Turkish intelligence (see 1996). [New York Times, 1/18/2003]
Zammar Linked to Hamburg 9/11 Cell and Bin Laden - It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, is a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2003] Zammar will later claim that he recruited 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others into the cell. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] German intelligence is aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] The investigation into Zammar allegedly stops in early 2000, after investigators conclude they don’t have enough evidence to convict him of any crime. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005]
CIA Involved with Zammar Operation - Vanity Fair will later claim that “A lone CIA agent, the Germans disclose, attempted to work alongside them” in Operation Zartheit, but German “requests for greater information and cooperation from the CIA, they claim, came to naught.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This CIA agent is probably Thomas Volz, who is the CIA’s undercover agent in Hamburg at the time (see December 1999).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Thomas Volz, Mohamed Atta, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Ansaldo Energia, Osama bin Laden, Barakat Yarkas

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

French authorities worry about a possible attack by militant Islamists during the 1998 World Cup in France. This “huge security headache” is primarily related to Algerian militants who previously bombed the Paris metro in 1995 (see July-October 1995) and are now “living untroubled lives in London.” Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will write: “France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded cooperation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending her own teams of agents abroad to carry out the task of gathering intelligence on Islamist militants.” In this context the French authorities are most concerned about London-based radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, a spiritual leader for the Algerians (see Spring 1998). One of the people plotting attacks at the World Cup, an Algerian, is arrested in Belgium in March 1998, and this leads to further arrests across Europe, although the actual nature of the plot is not known definitively. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 123-4, 128]

Entity Tags: Abu Hamza al-Masri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohamed Daki.Mohamed Daki. [Source: Cageprisoners]Records indicate that would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh lives at the same Hamburg, Germany, address as a Moroccan named Mohamed Daki during this time. Daki will be arrested in April 2003, and will admit to knowing bin al-Shibh and some others in the Hamburg cell. In April 1999 Daki will obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it is not known if he goes there. It is generally assumed by the press that the Hamburg cell keep themselves separate from other al-Qaeda cells in Europe. However, Daki is an expert document forger and a member of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), but apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Daki is not made. German authorities will interview him after 9/11, and he will admit ties to bin al-Shibh, but he will be let go, not investigated further, and not put on any watch lists. He will later come under investigation in Italy for recruiting fighters to combat the US in Iraq. He will finally be arrested and charged for that, but not for his 9/11 connections. [Los Angeles Times, 3/22/2004; New York Times, 3/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Daki, Al-Qaeda, Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Cabdullah Ciise.Cabdullah Ciise. [Source: The Sun]Police raid the apartment of Cabdullah Ciise, an extremist based in Germany who is linked to hijacker Mohamed Atta and some of his associates in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. The police find forged Italian documents in the apartment, proving a link between Ciise in Germany and Italian cells that specialize in document forgery, especially one in Milan that is under investigation (see 1998 and October 2, 1998). Ciise lives in Germany from 1991 until October 1999, during which time he becomes friendly with Mohamed Atta as well as cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh, with whom he often watches videos about the war in Chechyna and talks about religion. Ciise is also linked to other cell members such as Mohamed Daki and his associates Said Bahaji and Mounir El Motassadeq, as well as a Yemeni named Mohammed Rajih whom German authorities will investigate for terrorist ties at some point before 2005. It is unclear what impact the link to the important Milan cell has on surveillance of the cell in Hamburg. Ciise will allegedly be involved in a bombing in Mombasa, Kenya (see November 28, 2002), will help send fighters to Iraq, and will be arrested in Milan in 2003. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 256]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Rajih, Mounir El Motassadeq, Cabdullah Ciise, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Three Yemeni men are arrested in Turin, Italy. They are connected to planned attacks on US facilities in Europe. They are members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group led by al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Italian police search their apartments and discover beards, wigs, weapons, and contact details for Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. This information is quickly passed to the German domestic intelligence service. Prior to this point, Germany has been investigating Zammar (see March 1997-Early 2000), but apparently they are uncertain if his claims of training in Afghanistan and meeting bin Laden are idle boasts. But after these arrests in Italy, German intelligence will realize Zammar has connections to real terrorists. The surveillance operation on him, and others in the Hamburg cell, will increase in intensity. [Stern, 8/13/2003; Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Germany, Italy, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Islamic Jihad

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Marienstrasse building.The Marienstrasse building. [Source: Associated Press]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, al-Qaeda operatives Said Bahaji and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and others in the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany, and some of them stay there until February 2001. Investigators will later believe this move marks the formation of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2002; New York Times, 9/10/2002] Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including, at times, 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. Alshehhi moves out after the first month; it is unclear why. [New York Times, 9/15/2001] During the 28 months Atta’s name is on the apartment lease, 29 Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address.
Surveillance of Bahaji - From the very beginning, the apartment is under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Bahaji. [Washington Post, 10/23/2001] The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji is directly monitored for at least part of 1998, but German officials will not disclose when the probe began or ends. This investigation is dropped for lack of evidence (see (Late 1998)). [Associated Press, 6/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji moves out in July 1999 and gets married a few months later (see October 9, 1999). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
Surveillance of El Motassadeq - German intelligence monitors the apartment off and on for months, and wiretaps Mounir El Motassadeq, an associate of the apartment-mates who will later be convicted for assisting the 9/11 plot, but apparently it does not find any indication of suspicious activity (see August 29, 1998). [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002]
Surveillance of Zammar - Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, does not live at the apartment, but he is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 259-60; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] He even lives in the apartment for a time in February 1999 (see February 1999). Zammar is the focus of an investigation that began in 1997 and continues until early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). Interest in monitoring him increases in late 1998 (see October 2, 1998).
Surveillance of Atta - The CIA also allegedly starts monitoring Atta in early 2000 while he is living at the apartment, and does not tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). Atta leaves Germany to live in the US in June 2000 (see June 3, 2000).
No Direct German Surveillance of the Apartment? - Yet, even though people like Zammar who frequently phone and visit the apartment are monitored, German officials will later claim that the apartment itself is never bugged. An unnamed senior German security official will later say that some surveillance of associated people gives “the impression that the people living there were fanatical believers. At the BfV [Germany’s domestic intelligence agency], we had to decide whether to ask permission to place a wiretap on the line at 54 Marienstrasse itself. We discussed this every day.” But he will claim that they ultimately decide they will not be able to get legal permission for a wiretap because there is no evidence that the apartment’s occupants are breaking any laws. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This claim that the apartment was not directly monitored seems contradicted by reports that Bahaji was the target of a surveillance investigation when he was living in the Marienstrasse apartment in late 1998 (see (Late 1998)).
What Would More Surveillance Have Uncovered? - It will later be clear that investigators could have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, one visitor will recall Atta and others discussing attacking the US. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999 and comes to the apartment. However, although there is a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998, the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him (see 1999). [Newsweek, 9/4/2002; New York Times, 11/4/2002] 9/11 Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays at the apartment “at times.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Remarkably, shortly after 9/11, the German government will claim it knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and nothing directed it towards the Marienstrasse apartment. [Daily Telegraph, 11/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Said Bahaji, Marwan Alshehhi, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Zakariya Essabar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy.The Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy. [Source: Public domain]By late 1998, US and Italian intelligence are already aware of the importance of a mosque in Milan, Italy, called the Islamic Cultural Institute. After 9/11, the Treasury Department will call the mosque “the main al-Qaeda station house in Europe. It is used to facilitate the movement of weapons, men and money across the world.” Additionally, they are aware that Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, a founder and director of Al Taqwa Bank, is also a founder and financier of the mosque. The mosque is also less than 50 miles away from Al Taqwa’s headquarters on the Swiss border.(see 1995-1997). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] US officials will later say that al-Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings stayed at the Milan mosque. This causes US and Italian intelligence to watch the mosque more closely, and it also causes the US to look closer at Al Taqwa Bank (see 1997-September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 3/18/2002] One member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan lives in Hamburg with 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh for most of 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998). In 2000, Abderazek Mahdjoub, the head of the Milan cell, lives in Hamburg, attends the Al-Quds mosque that the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell attends, and has ties with some of the 9/11 hijackers (see 2000). Al-Qaeda operatives involved in the failed millennium bombing plot in Jordan also stay at the Milan mosque (see November 30, 1999). The Jordanian government later will claim that Al Taqwa helped fund these millennium bombers. [Newsweek, 3/18/2002; Newsweek, 4/12/2004] Starting in late 2000, Italian intelligence, wiretapping people associated with the Milan mosque and/or the Milan al-Qaeda cell, record conversations suggesting foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot (see August 12, 2000; January 24, 2001). This information is shared with the US in early 2001 (see March 2001). Additional evidence will come out after 9/11 suggesting some people in Milan had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September 4, 2001; September 7, 2001). Given the closeness of the Al Taqwa Bank to the mosque, especially through Nasreddin, this raises the possibility of Al Taqwa involvement and knowledge of specific al-Qaeda plots, including the 9/11 attacks, though there is no known evidence of such direct ties except for the attempted millennium bombing mentioned above.

Entity Tags: Islamic Cultural Institute, Abderazek Mahdjoub, Italy, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, US Department of the Treasury, Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, Al-Qaeda, Al Taqwa Bank

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A top al-Qaeda operative known as Abu Doha arrives in London to take up a leading role in operations there. French intelligence chief Pierre de Bousquet de Florian will describe Abu Doha, an Algerian better known as “the Doctor,” as al-Qaeda’s main recruiting sergeant in Europe, adding that “it is not possible to over-emphasize his importance” because he is the “principal catalyst” for the establishment of a network of North African radicals across Britain, Europe, and North America. Abu Doha, who has already established a special section for North African trainees at the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan, links up with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a local militant leader and radical imam who is an informer for the British authorities (see Early 1997). He bases himself at Abu Hamza’s mosque, Finsbury Park, where he unifies rival Algerian factions, increasing the flow of funds and recruits sent to the camps in Afghanistan. After he is captured (see February 2001), a British judge at an immigration appeals tribunal will say: “In Afghanistan he had held a senior position in the training camps organizing the passage of mujaheddin volunteers to and from those camps. He had a wide range of extremist Islamic contacts inside and outside [Britain] including links to individuals involved in terrorist operations. He was involved in a number of extremist agendas. By being in [Britain] he had brought cohesion to Algerian extremists based here and he had strengthened the existing links with individuals associated with the terrorist training facilities in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 116-117]

Entity Tags: Finsbury Park Mosque, Abu Doha, Abu Hamza al-Masri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Around this time, US intelligence notes that a man in Hamburg, Germany, named Mohammed Haydar Zammar is in direct contact with one of bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators. Zammar is an al-Qaeda recruiter with links to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and the rest of the Hamburg terror cell. The US had noted Zammar’s terror links on “numerous occasions” before 9/11. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] However, apparently the US does not share their information on Zammar with German intelligence. Instead, the Germans are given evidence from Turkey that Zammar is running a travel agency as a terror front in Hamburg. In 1998, they got information from Italy confirming he is an Islamic militant (see October 2, 1998). However, his behavior is so suspicious that they have already started monitoring him closely (see 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; Stern, 8/13/2003] Ironically, also in 1999, German intelligence gives its information on Zammar to the CIA (see 1999).

Entity Tags: Turkey, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Germany, Italy, US intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Diana Dean.Diana Dean. [Source: Seattle Times]Al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam is arrested in Port Angeles, Washington, attempting to enter the US with components of explosive devices. One hundred and thirty pounds of bomb-making chemicals and detonator components are found inside his rental car. He subsequently admits he planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999. [New York Times, 12/30/2001] Alert border patrol agent Diana Dean stops him; she and other agents nationwide had been warned recently to look for suspicious activity. Ressam’s bombing would have been part of a wave of attacks against US targets over the New Year’s weekend (see December 15-31, 1999). He is later connected to al-Qaeda and convicted. [US Congress, 9/18/2002; PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Diana Dean, Ahmed Ressam, Los Angeles International Airport, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sami Ben Khemais.Sami Ben Khemais. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Telephone wiretaps and listening devices used against a Milan-based Tunisian operative named Sami Ben Khemais provide investigators with “a trove of fresh information” and help them uncover a European network of Islamist radicals. Ben Khemais fell under surveillance some time after arriving in Italy from Afghan training camps in 1998 and has dealings with other radicals in Germany, Spain, Britain, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Shortly after 9/11, a German official will say the network of interlocking cells uncovered changes counterterrorist thinking in Europe: “In the past, we had seen some links to Afghanistan, but we saw them as more or less acting here without close connections to al-Qaeda. Now we are seeing more and more links between cells and to al-Qaeda. We are rethinking everything.” The European cells are organized under two umbrellas, Takfir wal Hijra and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), and its three leaders are Abu Doha, who will be arrested in London (see February 2001); Mohamed Bensakhria, based in Frankfurt, but arrested in Spain; and Tarek Maaroufi, who is arrested in Belgium. The Milan cell of which Ben Khemais is part and which he finances by drug-trafficking, counterfeiting money and documents, and money laundering, is connected to the “Hamburg cell” that provides three 9/11 hijackers in various ways (see December 1997-November 1998, October 2, 1998, and 2000). [Boston Globe, 10/23/2001]

Entity Tags: Tarek Maaroufi, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, Abu Doha, Islamic Cultural Institute, Mohamed Bensakhria, Sami Ben Khemais, Takfir Wal Hijra

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A group of London radicals purchases communications equipment worth $335,000 for the Chechen rebels. One of the purchasers is Abu Doha, one of the most senior al-Qaeda members ever to have lived in Britain (see February 2001) and a worshipper at the Finsbury Park mosque of Abu Hamza al-Masri. The equipment includes 19 satellite telephones and 36 SIM cards with airtime. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 67-8]

Entity Tags: Abu Doha, Islamic International Peacekeeping Brigade, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Finsbury Park Mosque

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman.Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman. [Source: US Defense Department]Italian intelligence successfully wiretaps an al-Qaeda cell in Milan, Italy, starting in late 1999. [Boston Globe, 8/4/2002] In a wiretapped conversation from this day, Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, a section chief in Yemen’s Political Security Organization (PSO - roughly the equivalent to the FBI in the US) traveling on a diplomatic passport (see Spring-Summer 1998), talks about a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft and the sky. The conversation takes place in a car on the way to a terrorist summit near Bologna (see August 12, 2000 and Shortly After), and the person Abdulrahman talks to is Mahmoud Es Sayed, a close associate of al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Before Spring 2000). There are several significant aspects to the conversation:
bullet Abdulrahman makes comments indicating he has foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. He says that he is “studying airlines,” comments, “Our focus is only on the air,” and tells Es Sayed to remember the words “above the head.” He also says that next time they meet he hopes to bring Es Sayed “a window or piece of the airplane,” and that the security on Alitalia and at Rome airport is poor. The name of the operation is given as “Jihadia,” and Abdulrahman says, “the big blow will come from the other country: one of those blows no one can ever forget.” He adds: “[It is] moving from south to north, from east to west: whoever created this plan is crazy, but he’s also a genius. It will leave them speechless.” He also says: “We can fight any power using candles and airplanes: they will not be able to stop us with even their most powerful weapons. We must hit them. And keep your head up.… Remember, the danger in the airports.… If it happens the newspapers from all over the world will write about it.”
bullet Es Sayed remarks, “I know brothers who went to America with the trick of the wedding publications.” The phrase “Big wedding” is sometimes used by al-Qaeda as code for a bombing or attack, including 9/11 (see November 30, 1999 and Late Summer 2001), so, taken together with Abdulrahman’s remarks, this indicates an unconventional attack in the US using aircraft;
bullet The two discuss training camps in Yemen, which are “proceeding on a world scale.” They also mention youth in Italy, and presumably the youth are training;
bullet Es Sayed says, “my dream is building an Islamic state,” and Abdulrahman replies that this is possible because the Yemeni government is weak and “sooner or later we will dominate it;”
bullet Es Sayed asks after a person named Ayman, evidently al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri;
bullet Abdulrahman twice mentions the name of Abdul Mejid, apparently a reference to Abdul Mejid al-Zindani, a radical leader in Yemen and associate of Osama bin Laden (see January-August 1998);
bullet Es Sayed makes the cryptic comment, “One must be cautious, like in Iran; not a single photo.”
Beginning in October 2000, FBI experts will help Italian police analyze the intercepts and warnings. Related conversations are overheard early the next year (see January 24, 2001 and February 2001). Neither Italy nor the FBI will fully understand their meaning until after 9/11, but apparently the Italians will understand enough to give the US an attack warning in March 2001 (see March 2001). After 9/11, this conversation and others like it will cause US intelligence to think there may be a link between the 9/11 plot and Yemen’s PSO. [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/2002; Guardian, 5/30/2002; Washington Post, 5/31/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2002; Vidino, 2006, pp. 224-5] Author Lorenzo Vidino will later comment: “The chilling conversation alarmed officials before 9/11, but it took on a completely different resonance after the attacks had taken place. [Abdulrahman], who had close connections to the highest ranks of al-Qaeda, likely knew about the plan in advance and had told Es Sayed about it.” [Vidino, 2006, pp. 226]

Entity Tags: Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, Mahmoud Es Sayed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohammed Ben Heni Lased.Mohammed Ben Heni Lased. [Source: Public domain]Italian and US authorities monitor an Italian cell of extremists linked to al-Qaeda (see Early 2000-2001) while its members discuss the use of a chemical weapon, but the cell does not appear to be able to make the weapon work. In phone conversations overheard by Italian intelligence operatives, Islamist extremists Sami Ben Khemais, Mohammed Ben Heni Lased, and others discuss the best way to transport chemicals—disguised as cans of tomatoes—and how to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker and a tape player. Ben Khemais also refers to a drug, for which a Libyan chemistry professor has a formula, but, although making the drug is supposedly easy, Ben Khemais cannot do it. He also suggests asking the Russian mafia for a chemical weapon, and refers to one man as “the sheik,” possibly meaning Osama bin Laden. However, despite his plans, no attacks are actually carried out. The Chicago Tribune will later comment, “Most of the talk is inconclusive, and, at times, Ben Khemais and his associates sound more like al-Qaeda wannabes than the calculating criminals as anti-terrorist investigators describe them.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Sami Ben Khemais, Mohammed Ben Heni Lased, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Italian intelligence hears an interesting wiretapped conversation eerily similar to one from August 12, 2000 (see August 12, 2000). This conversation occurs between al-Qaeda operatives Mahmoud Es Sayed (see Summer 2000) and Ben Soltane Adel, two members of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. Adel asks, in reference to fake documents, “Will these work for the brothers who are going to the United States?” Sayed responds angrily, saying: “[D]on’t ever say those words again, not even joking!… If it’s necessary… whatever place we may be, come up and talk in my ear, because these are very important things. You must know… that this plan is very, very secret, as if you were protecting the security of the state.” This will be one of many clues found from the Italian wiretaps and passed on to US intelligence in March 2001 (see March 2001). However, they apparently will not be properly understood until after 9/11. Adel will later be arrested and convicted of belonging to a terrorist cell, and Es Sayed will flee to Afghanistan in July 2001. [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/2002; Guardian, 5/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Mahmoud Es Sayed, Ben Soltane Adel, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Abu Doha, a key figure in al-Qaeda’s European network, is arrested at Heathrow airport in London. He is attempting to board a plane for Saudi Arabia, but several false passports are found in his hand luggage. A search of his London flat reveals passport photographs depicting him in various disguises, 20 credit cards, a telescopic rifle sight, and what police describe as terrorism paraphernalia. He is found to be involved in various plots around the world, including a section of the Millennium Plot that comprised a bombing of Los Angeles airport (see December 14, 1999), so the US soon asks for his extradition. He is also later said to have worked on plots to bomb the US, British, and Australian embassies in Singapore in December 2001, a planned attack on the Paris-Dakar rally in January 2000, a plot to attack the 1998 World Cup in France (see Late 1997-Early 1998), and other attacks. Abu Doha was close to Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for British intelligence (see Early 1997 and May 1999). Abu Doha’s deputy, Rabah Kadre, is also arrested. Although he has been under surveillance by British authorities since 1998 (see 1998), he is released, apparently because British authorities think they have insufficient evidence against him. He will later leave Britain, but be arrested following his re-entry (see November 2002). The British intelligence service MI5 will later say that Kadre is “Abu Doha’s successor” as a leader of the Europe-wide network. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 117-118, 240]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Abu Doha, Rabah Kadre

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Following the arrest of extremists based around Milan, Italy, in April 2001 (see 2000-April 2001 and Early 2000-2001), local authorities begin to investigate associates of the arrested men. They find that when the group wants to send people to training camps in Afghanistan, this is arranged through two people based at the Islamic Cultural Institute, a well-known radical mosque in Milan. The two men who take care of the arrangements are Abdelhalim Remadna, an Algerian secretary of the mosque’s imam, and a Moroccan named Yassin Chekkouri, both of whom live inside the mosque and almost never leave. After several months of investigation, the authorities find them to be key players in a sophisticated network that is recruiting hundreds of European Muslims for al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. They also find that Remadna communicates frequently with a man named Abu Jaffa (a.k.a. Abu Jafar al-Jaziri), who runs a guesthouse for Algerian militants in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, and that the two of them coordinate the trainees’ movements. The group does not use the usual route for trainees through Pakistan, as it is aware Pakistani stamps in a passport indicate an affiliation with al-Qaeda. Instead, volunteers travel through Turkey and Iran. Members of Remadna’s network say that Iran provides “complete cooperation” with this. Remadna provides the volunteers with addresses of hotels and safe houses, where members of the network meet them and help them cross from Iran into Afghanistan. By analyzing phone traffic, the authorities find that militants from at least six European countries rely on Remadna to reach the Afghan camps. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 219-221]

Entity Tags: Yassin Chekkouri, Abu Jaffa, Abdelhalim Remadna, Islamic Cultural Institute

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abu Hamza al-Masri.Abu Hamza al-Masri. [Source: BBC]The Italian Secret Service SISDE records a meeting in the Finsbury Park mosque, in northern London, Britain. Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Masri (an Afghanistan war veteran heading a radical Islamic group), Mustapha Melki (linked to al-Qaeda member Abu Doha—see February 2001), and a man only known as Omar talk to each other. Notes of the meeting state, “Abu Hamza proposed an ambitious but unlikely plot which involved attacks carried by planes.” This is apparently a reference to an attack on the upcoming G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, scheduled in several weeks (see July 20-22, 2001). But unlike other reports of an al-Qaeda attack on that summit, this refers to an attack using more than one plane. The notes of the meeting conclude, “The belief that Osama bin Laden is plotting an attack is spreading among the radical Islamic groups.” [Discovery News, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Mustapha Melki, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Al-Qaeda, Italian Secret Service, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An Italian network of extremists that has been closely monitored by local authorities (see After April 2001) goes silent following 9/11, after which only one message is intercepted. The message, which says, “Congratulations for the USA,” is from an unknown militant to Abdelhalim Remadna, a leading radical based in Milan. Remadna is arrested on November 12 as he attempts to flee Italy. One of his associates, Yassin Chekkouri, is arrested on the same day. Remadna will be sentenced to eight years in prison, whereas Chekkouri will receive four. Mahmoud Es Sayed, one of their associates who apparently had some foreknowledge of 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and September 4, 2001), escapes Italy some time in October, but is apparently killed at the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 227-30]

Entity Tags: Abdelhalim Remadna, Yassin Chekkouri, Mahmoud Es Sayed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohamed Daki.Mohamed Daki. [Source: ANSA]Three weeks after 9/11, German investigators question Mohamed Daki, a Moroccan. Daki came to Germany on a student visa, but he never enrolled in college, instead associating with radical Islamists at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. Daki admits that he knows members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell and that hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh was registered as his roommate in 1997 and 1998 (see December 1997-November 1998), but in retrospect, it appears he lies about some other things. The Germans let him go and do not investigate him any further. The New York Times will later report that “officials now concede they also lost track of him. And, apparently, his name was not added to any international list of suspicious persons.”
Involved in Militant Activity in Italy - In the spring of 2002, Daki will move to Milan, Italy, another center of al-Qaeda activity. Italian investigators believe Daki eventually joins an al-Qaeda-related operation to recruit fighters in Europe to fight against US forces in Iraq. In March 2003, Italian intelligence will monitor a call to Daki from Abderazek Mahdjoub in Syria. Mahdjoub also has ties to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, and had been under investigation in Germany since 2000, if not earlier (see 2000). Investigators believe he headed the al-Qaeda cell in Milan while living in Hamburg. Mahdjoub will tell Daki that he and others have been detected: “Listen to me attentively. Wait for my call. Move yourself to France and await orders.” In April, Daki and some of his associates will be arrested in Italy. Italian officials will say that only after these arrests do they find out the intelligence Germany had on them, including their links to the 9/11 plotters. One Hamburg police investigator will later comment, “Looking back, I would say that we should have asked more pointed questions [about Daki] than we did.” [New York Times, 3/22/2004]
Convicted in Italy - In 2005, Daki will be acquitted on charges of sending fighters to oppose US-led forces in Iraq, when the Italian judge argues that it is not illegal to send “guerrillas” to fight there. But in 2007, this decision will be overturned and Daki will be sentenced to four years in prison. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2007]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Daki, Abderazek Mahdjoub, German intelligence community

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

British authorities arrest Rabah Kadre, the leader of a Europe-wide extremist network, over fears he may soon be involved in an attack inside Britain. Kadre first fell under surveillance in Britain in 1998 (see 1998), and was arrested and released in 2001 (see February 2001). He subsequently left Britain and, according to intelligence reports, fought in Chechnya. However, he was then located by a French intelligence service in Bratislava, Slovakia, and tracked to London. British authorities debate whether to monitor him or arrest him now, in order to avoid the possibility he could activate a cell, which would then carry out an attack. The decision to arrest him is taken because, according to a security official, he is “too much of a risk.” The arrest is coordinated with French authorities, who detain another four men in Paris, finding a recipe for making cyanide and a chemical warfare protection suit. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 240]

Entity Tags: Rabah Kadre

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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