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Context of 'February 11, 2007: Al-Qaeda Hamburg Cell Member Zammar Is Given 12-Year Sentence in Syria'

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Mamoun Darkazanli several years after 9/11.Mamoun Darkazanli several years after 9/11. [Source: Reuters]According to CIA documents, US intelligence first becomes aware of Mamoun Darkazanli at this time, when a person arrested in Africa carrying false passports and counterfeit money is found with Darkazanli’s telephone number. Darkazanli is a Syrian businessman residing in Germany. The CIA carefully scrutinizes Darkazanli and his business dealings, but authorities are not able to make a case against him. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 185 pdf file) Many will later claim that Darkazanli is a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. He will associate with 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and others (see October 9, 1999).

Tayseer Allouni.Tayseer Allouni. [Source: Public domain / Antonio Casas]Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni makes several trips to Turkey and Afghanistan, taking money with him and giving it to people who are later said to be militants. Allouni, some of whose telephone conversations are recorded by Spanish authorities from the mid-1990s (see 1995 and After), makes numerous trips to Turkey and Afghanistan, carrying no more than $4,000 each time. Allouni’s associates include Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who are linked to 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and October 9, 1999), as well as Spain-based al-Qaeda operative Barakat Yarkas, who also is in contact with Darkazanli and Zammar (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). (Miles 2005, pp. 306-313) In 2000, Allouni is monitored by the Spanish government as he makes several trips to Afghanistan. His lawyer will later concede that he was given $35,000 by Yarkas, and Allouni will acknowledge that he did carry thousands of dollars from Yarkas to Afghanistan, Turkey, and Chechnya. (Crewdson 10/19/2003) However, Allouni will later say he is not a member of al-Qaeda and was only taking the money to friends and other Syrian exiles. He will later interview Osama bin Laden (see October 20, 2001) and be sentenced to jail for his alleged al-Qaeda membership (see September 26, 2005). (Miles 2005, pp. 306-313)

Mohammed Haydar Zammar.Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Source: Knut Mueller]Turkish intelligence informs Germany’s domestic intelligence service that Mohammed Haydar Zammar is a radical militant who has been traveling to trouble spots around the world. Zammar has already made more than 40 journeys to places like Bosnia and Chechnya, and in 1996 he pledges his allegiance to al-Qaeda during a trip to Afghanistan (see 1991-1996). Turkey explains that Zammar is running a dubious travel agency in Hamburg, organizing flights for radical militants to Afghanistan. As a result, by early 1997, German intelligence will launch Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), an investigation of Islamic militants in the Hamburg area. The Germans will use a full range of intelligence techniques, including wiretaps and informants. (Laabs 8/13/2003; Zeman et al. 11/2004) Operation Zartheit will run for at least three years and connect Zammar to many of the 9/11 plotters (see March 1997-Early 2000).

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. (Stark 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).

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. (Rotella 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. (Schrom and Laabs 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. (Stark 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.” (Zeman et al. 11/2004) This CIA agent is probably Thomas Volz, who is the CIA’s undercover agent in Hamburg at the time (see December 1999).

According to closed-session testimony by CIA, FBI and NSA heads, al-Qaeda begins planning the 9/11 attacks this year. (Diamond and Kiely 6/18/2002) In a June 2002 interview, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also asserts that planning for the attacks begin at this time. (Shahine 9/8/2002) However, it appears the targeting of the WTC and pilot training began even earlier. An al-Qaeda operative in Spain will later be found with videos filmed in 1997 of major US structures (including “innumerable takes from all distances and angles” of the WTC). There are numerous connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers, including an important meeting there in July 2001, however, the person who filmed the 1997 video will be acquitted of making it for al-Qaeda in 2005 (see September 26, 2005). (Socolovsky 7/17/2002) Hijacker Waleed Alshehri was living in Florida since 1995, started training for his commercial pilot training degree in 1996, and obtained his license in 1997 (though it is not certain if this refers to the same person). (Mackay 9/16/2001; Socolovsky 7/17/2002)

A photocopy of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s Comoros passport in Sudan’s intelligence files.A photocopy of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s Comoros passport in Sudan’s intelligence files. [Source: Richard Miniter]Gutbi al-Mahdi, head of Sudan’s intelligence agency, sends a letter to David Williams, an FBI station chief. It reads, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the FBI. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else.” Apparently the FBI is very eager to accept the offer and gain access to Sudan’s files on bin Laden and his associates. The US had been offered the files before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996; April 5, 1997), but the US position was that Sudan’s offers were not serious since Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi was ideologically close to bin Laden. But al-Turabi has lost power to moderates by this time, and in fact he is placed under arrest in 1998. There is a political battle between US agencies over the Sudanese offer, and in the end the State Department forbids any contact with al-Mahdi. On June 24, 1998, Williams is obliged to reply, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” Al-Madhi later will complain, “If they had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the [US embassy] bombings.” Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan until 1997, will say, “The US failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications - at the least for what happened at the US Embassies in 1998. In any case, the US lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.” One of the plotters in the bombings is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who is living in Sudan but making trips to Kenya to participate in the bombing preparations. Sudan has files on him and continues to monitor him. Sudan also has files on Saif al-Adel, another embassy bomber who has yet to be captured. Sudan also has files on Wadih El-Hage and Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, both of whom have contact with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell (see September 16, 1998; Late 1998; 1993). Salim even attends the same small Hamburg mosque as 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Vanity Fair magazine will suggest that if al-Madhi’s offer had been properly followed up, both the embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks could have been foiled. (Rose 1/2002) It is later revealed that the US was wiretapping bin Laden in Sudan on their own (see Early 1990s).

Thieves snatch a passport from a car driven by a US tourist in Barcelona, Spain, which later finds its way into the hands of would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh. Bin al-Shibh allegedly uses the name on the passport in the summer of 2001 as he wires money to pay flight school tuition for Zacarias Moussaoui in Oklahoma (see July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001). After 9/11, investigators will believe the movement of this passport shows connections between the 9/11 plotters in Germany and a support network in Spain, made up mostly by ethnic Syrians. “Investigators believe that the Syrians served as deep-cover mentors, recruiters, financiers and logistics providers for the hijackers—elite backup for an elite attack team.” (Rotella 1/14/2003) Mohamed Atta travels to Spain twice or three times in 2001 (see January 4-10, 2001, July 8-19, 2001, and September 5, 2001), perhaps to make contact with members of this Spanish support team.

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. (McDermott 1/27/2002; Bernstein et al. 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. (Erlanger 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. (Eggen 10/23/2001) The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. (McDermott 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; McDermott 9/1/2002) Bahaji moves out in July 1999 and gets married a few months later (see October 9, 1999). (Stark 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). (Crewdson and Simpson 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; McDermott 9/1/2002; Crewdson and Simpson 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. (Zeman et al. 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. (Rubin and Dorgan 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). (Hosenball 9/4/2002; Butler 11/4/2002) 9/11 Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays at the apartment “at times.” (Stafford 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. (Helm 11/24/2001)

On top is El-Hage’s business card for his fake charity, Help Africa People. Below is his card for his business Anhar Trading. On the lower left is a US address and on the lower right is Darkazanli’s address in Germany.On top is El-Hage’s business card for his fake charity, Help Africa People. Below is his card for his business Anhar Trading. On the lower left is a US address and on the lower right is Darkazanli’s address in Germany. [Source: CNN]The CIA first became interested in Mamoun Darkazanli in 1993 (see 1993). The FBI shows interest in Darkazanli after al-Qaeda operatives Wadih El Hage and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) are arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001 and September 16, 1998). According to FBI documents, Darkazanli’s fax and telephone numbers are discovered in El Hage’s address book. Darkazanli’s Deutsche Bank account number is found in the book as well. (Hirschkorn 10/16/2001) El-Hage had created a number of shell companies as fronts for al-Qaeda activities, and one of these uses the address of Darkazanli’s apartment. (Crewdson 11/17/2002) Further, El-Hage’s business card shows Darkazanli’s Hamburg address. The FBI also discovers that Darkazanli has power of attorney over a bank account belonging to Salim, a high-ranking al-Qaeda member. El Hage will later be convicted for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings, and Salim will remain in US custody. (Erlanger 6/20/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file) By this time, Darkazanli is associating with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, and may be a member of the cell himself.

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; Laabs 8/13/2003) Ironically, also in 1999, German intelligence gives its information on Zammar to the CIA (see 1999).

Video footage of Said Bahaji’s wedding in October 1999. Clockwise from top left: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ziad Jarrah, and Marwan Alshehhi.Video footage of Said Bahaji’s wedding in October 1999. Clockwise from top left: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ziad Jarrah, and Marwan Alshehhi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Mamoun Darkazanli, along with most of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, attends the wedding of Said Bahaji. Bahaji is one of future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s roommates and is believed to be a core member of the cell. The wedding takes place at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. A videotape of the wedding will be discovered by German investigators shortly after 9/11, and eventually more than 20 men will be identified from the video. Other attendees include: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, and Abdelghani Mzoudi. (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002; CBS News 5/7/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 561; Zeman et al. 11/2004) Zammar is Bahaji’s best man in the wedding. (Erlanger 6/20/2002)
Speeches and Songs Promise Martyrdom - The video first shows Bahaji’s nuptial ceremony, followed by a series of radical militant speeches. Bin al-Shibh gives a particularly fiery speech. He says: “It is now as if we were in school, in Arabic lessons. At the end, we have a test. Some will pass this test, [others] will not.” He quotes a poem, saying that when Israel flies its flag over Jerusalem, “how can you bear these humiliations?… When the tyrants attack you, you will then be a wave of fire and blood.” The group then sings songs in Arabic celebrating violent holy war and martyrdom. One song includes the lyrics: “Our squads have been revolutionized.… Against the heresy, like a volcano, like hurricane and fire, we follow the voice of your call.… We will be aglow with readiness for action. We will crush the throne of the oppressor.” Another song celebrates martyrdom and promises many virgins in paradise for martyrs. (Zeman et al. 11/2004)
Video Shows the 9/11 Plot Is in Motion - The New York Times will later report, “The presence of all of these men at the wedding of Mr. Bahaji has led investigators to believe that the plan to attack the United States had essentially been formed by then.” (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002)

Ziad Jarrah in Afghanistan.Ziad Jarrah in Afghanistan. [Source: Public Domain]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Nawaf Alhazmi meet to discuss the 9/11 operation at a building known as the “House of Alghamdi” in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to a statement made by bin al-Shibh in an interview prior to his capture in 2002 (see September 8-11, 2002 and September 11, 2002). Bin al-Shibh will say, “We had a meeting attended by all four pilots including Nawaf Alhazmi, Atta’s right-hand man,” which the Guardian will interpret to mean Alhazmi, and not Hani Hanjour, flew Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon (see (December 2000-January 2001)). (Tremlett 9/9/2002) The 9/11 Commission, based on information obtained from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under interrogation, will place Hanjour in Afghanistan in spring 2000, indicating he will arrive some months after this meeting is held, and could not therefore attend it. Please note: information from detainee interrogations is thought to be unreliable due to the methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) In a substitution for testimony introduced as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, KSM will place Hanjour’s arrival at the training camps in Afghanistan in “September or October” of 2000. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 7/31/2006, pp. 23 pdf file)

Zakariya Essabar.Zakariya Essabar. [Source: Associated Press]Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar attends an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. He leaves for the camp in January 2000 and stays at the camp for an usually long time—nine months—until October. Hamburg cell member Mounir El Motassadeq is at the same camp from late May until August 2000 (see May 22 to August 2000). The two of them train separately but see each other often. Hamburg associate Abdelghani Mzoudi also attends the same camp around this time (see Summer 2000).
Attempt to Become a 9/11 Pilot? - When Essabar returns from the camp, he applies for a new passport, saying that he lost his previous one. When he gets a new one, he applies for a US visa. However, his application is rejected, probably because, as a Moroccan citizen, he is deemed an economic risk. Author Terry McDermott will later comment, “The timing suggests that [the Hamburg cell was] intent on finding a fourth pilot” for the 9/11 attacks. (McDermott 2005, pp. 194, 201-202)

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mounir El Motassadeq attends an al-Qaeda training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. He leaves on May 22, 2000, flying from Hamburg, Germany, to Istanbul, Turkey, and then on to Pakistan. He is there at the same time as another Hamburg cell member, Zakariya Essabar (see January-October 2000). Although they train separately, they are at the same camp and see each other frequently. (McDermott 2005, pp. 194, 201-202) Hamburg associate Abdelghani Mzoudi also attends the same camp around this time, and El Motassadeq will later testify in court that he meets with him at the camp. (see Summer 2000). El Motassadeq leaves Afghanistan in August 2000. (Williams 8/30/2002) El Motassadeq’s trip to the camp is likely noticed by the Turkish government, because he is on a watch list and he uses a known route to the camps (see May 22, 2000).

Alleged al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Abdelghani Mzoudi attends an al-Qaeda training camp. Mzoudi has long been an associate of future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg cell. In the summer of 2002, a witness will tell German intelligence that Mzoudi was seen at one of the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg cell, will later testify in a German court that he met Mzoudi in Afghanistan (see May 22 to August 2000). Their mutual acquaintance Zakariya Essabar is at the same camp as El Motassadeq at this time (see January-October 2000). (Associated Press 5/9/2003) Mzoudi will later be convicted of a role in the 9/11 attacks, but will then be acquitted after the US does not allow a key witness in its custody to be questioned (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005).

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, with a few of the future 9/11 hijackers, travels to Afghanistan and meets Osama bin Laden. German intelligence soon learns of the trip, and even gets wiretapped recordings of some of his conversations there. Zammar has been an Islamist militant for a long time, and went to training camps in Afghanistan in 1991 and 1994. Living in Hamburg, he was able to collect about 12,000 Deutsche Marks (approximately $6,000 at the time) for al-Qaeda. In September 2000, he takes the money to Afghanistan. He is able to get a face-to-face meeting with bin Laden, in a training camp near Kandahar. Zammar is still at the training camp in early October, when al-Qaeda bombs the USS Cole in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). He and the others in the camp have a celebration this night. This account is based on a confession Zammar will give to visiting German officials while he is secretly imprisoned in Syria in 2002 (see November 20-22, 2002). It is almost certain Zammar is frequently tortured there. However, Der Spiegel will later claim that German intelligence is able to verify many of the details of this trip on its own, because it receives wiretapped recordings of Zammar’s conversations in Afghanistan from at least one foreign intelligence agency. (Stark 11/21/2005)

Damage to the USS Cole.Damage to the USS Cole. [Source: Department of Defense]The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by two al-Qaeda militants, Hassan al-Khamri and Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras). Seventeen US soldiers are killed and 30 are wounded. The CIA will later conclude that with just slightly more skilled execution, the attack would have killed 300 and sunk the ship. (ABC News 10/13/2000; Coll 2004, pp. 532; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 191) The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) immediately takes credit for the attack. This is a Yemen-based Muslim militant group widely believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda (see 1996-1997 and After). (Whitaker 10/14/2000) The IAA statement is released by its spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, (June 1998), and December 28, 1998 and After). Abu Hamza says that the attack was timed to mark the anniversary of the execution of the IAA’s former commander (see October 17, 1999). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 184) The prime minister of Yemen at the time of the bombing will say shortly after 9/11, “The Islamic Army was part of al-Qaeda.” (Whitaker 10/13/2001) The US soon learns the names of some al-Qaeda operatives involved in the attack, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000), and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). 9/11 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see October 10-21, 2000) and Khalid Almihdhar (see Around October 12, 2000) may also have been involved. This is a repeat of a previously attempted attack, against the USS The Sullivans, which failed and was apparently undetected (see January 3, 2000). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) The 9/11 Commission will later say the Cole bombing “was a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation, supervised directly by bin Laden. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 190)

Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta makes a short trip to Spain and Germany. On January 4, 2001, he flies from Miami, Florida, to Madrid, Spain. He has allegedly been in the US since June 3, 2000, learning to fly in Florida with fellow 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. (Morgan, Kidwell, and Corral 9/22/2001) Spanish authorities will later say Atta meets Barakat Yarkas, head of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell, on the trip. After Yarkas is arrested in late 2001, an interview with him by a high court judge will indicate that “numerous lines to Sept. 11 principals passed through [him].” (Sennott 8/4/2002) Atta also makes a brief visit to Hamburg, Germany, at this time. One college student acquiantance of his, an Egyptian named Nader el-Abd, will later recall seeing Atta at this time. “I asked him where he had been,” el-Abd will say. “He said he was looking for somewhere to do his PhD.” (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 133-134) Atta returns to the US on January 10 (see January 10, 2001). He will make a second trip to Spain in July of this year (see July 8-19, 2001).

The apartment building in Paterson, New Jersey, where some of the hijackers lived.The apartment building in Paterson, New Jersey, where some of the hijackers lived. [Source: Associated Press]9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Salem Alhazmi rent a one-room apartment in Paterson, New Jersey. Hanjour signs the lease. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Mohamed Atta are also seen coming and going by neighbors. One unnamed hijacker has to be told by a neighbor how to screw in a light bulb. (Weiner and Weiser 9/27/2001; Goldstein 9/30/2001; Associated Press 10/7/2001) The 9/11 Commission’s account of this differs from previous press accounts, and has Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi (instead of his brother Salem) first moving to Paterson in mid-May. Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and probably Ahmed Alghamdi are all seen living there as well during the summer. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 230) Other reports have Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi living periodically in Falls Church, Virginia, over nearly the exact same time period, from March through August 2001 (see March 2001 and After). During this time, Mohamed Atta and other hijackers live in Wayne, New Jersey, a town only one mile from Paterson (see (Before September 2000-12 Months Later)), and Atta purchases a plane ticket to Spain from Apollo Travel in Paterson in early July (see July 8-19, 2001).” (Maddux 9/27/2001; Chadwick 9/27/2001; CNN 10/29/2001; Berry 9/19/2002)

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji tells his family and his employers that he will be quitting his job and moving to Pakistan. He is working at a computer company in Hamburg, and he tells his superiors there that he will be quitting in the autumn because he has accepted an internship in Pakistan. He tells the same story to his family. However, his aunt, Barbara Arens, doesn’t believe him. She contacts the police and tries to get them to do something. But the police are uninterested because they don’t see a sign of any crime being committed. (McDermott 2005, pp. 229-230) His internship story suggests that in June 2001, the Hamburg cell already has a rough idea when the 9/11 attacks will take place. Bahaji will leave for Pakistan on September 3, 2001 (see September 3-5, 2001).

A warrant is issued for the arrest of Mohamed Atta in the state of Florida. On April 26, Atta had been stopped in a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver’s license (see April 26, 2001). He failed to show up for his May 28 court hearing, resulting in the arrest warrant. After this, Atta will fly all over the US using his real name, and even flies to Spain and back in July (see July 8-19, 2001), but is never stopped or questioned. The police apparently never try to find him. (Wall Street Journal 10/16/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation 11/12/2001) Atta will be stopped for speeding in July, but apparently his arrest warrant will not have been added to the police database by then (see July 5, 2001). Three other future 9/11 hijackers are also stopped for speeding in the US (see April 1, 2001, August 1, 2001, and September 9, 2001). Curiously, on the day of 9/11, a woman claiming to be Atta’s wife will go to a Florida courthouse and attempt to clear this from Atta’s record, but Atta does not have a wife (see September 11, 2001).

According to a statement later made by 9/11 plot facilitator Ramzi bin al-Shibh under interrogation, at this time he is to courier operational details that are too sensitive to trust to telephone or e-mail to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. He arranges a meeting with Atta in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and travels there on a genuine Saudi passport in the name of Hasan Ali al-Assiri. While in Kuala Lumpur, bin al-Shibh applies for a Yemeni passport, but Atta does not show up and bin al-Shibh travels to Bangkok. Atta fails to come to Bangkok as well and bin al-Shibh then flies to Amsterdam and travels to Hamburg by train. In Hamburg he purchases a plane ticket to Spain, where he finally meets Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 5 pdf file) However, the reliability of such statements by detainees is questioned due to the methods used to extract them (see June 16, 2004). Another of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, is in Malaysia around this time, but it is not clear whether he and bin al-Shibh meet (see June 2001).

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, is detained in Jordan and then let go. According to a German intelligence official speaking in 2002, Zammar is in transit through Jordan. However, the official will not say where Zammar is going, where he is coming from, or why he is held. Zammar is detained for several days and then deported back to Germany. (Finn 6/12/2002) When Zammar is questioned by German intelligence shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11-October 27, 2001), he will mention his detention in Jordan. He will say that Jordanian officials “asked me about Afghanistan, the people there, my beliefs, contacts in Jordan, and my party membership. By party membership that meant whether I was a follower of Hezbollah, Hamas, [Islamic] Jihad, or Osama bin Laden.” (New York Times 1/18/2003) Interestingly, in the beginning of July, CIA Director George Tenet made an urgent request to allied intelligence agencies to arrest anyone on a list of known al-Qaeda operatives (see July 3, 2001). In 1999, US intelligence determined that Zammar was in contact with one of Osama bin Laden’s senior operational coordinators, and the US notes Zammar’s terrorist links on numerous occasions before 9/11 (see Summer 1999), so Zammar would be a likely candidate for Tenet’s list. Zammar also was the target of a German intelligence investigation that started in 1996 and lasted at least three years (see 1996).

CIA Director Tenet makes an urgent special request to 20 friendly foreign intelligence services, asking for the arrests of anyone on a list of known al-Qaeda operatives. (Gellman 5/17/2002) Also in late June, the CIA orders all its station chiefs overseas to share information on al-Qaeda with their host governments and to push for immediate disruptions of al-Qaeda cells. Vice President Cheney asks Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah for help on July 5, and counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke makes appeals to other foreign officials. As a result, several terrorist operatives are detained by foreign governments. According to a later analysis by the 9/11 Commission, this possibly disrupts operations in the Persian Gulf and Italy (see June 13, 2001) and perhaps averts attacks against two or three US embassies. For instance, al-Qaeda operative Djamel Beghal is detained by the French government in July and gives up information about a plot to attack the US embassy in France (see July 24 or 28, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 258, 534) Perhaps as part of Tenet’s request for help, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, is detained in Jordan in July 2001 and then let go (see July 2001).

The movements of John O’Neill, the FBI manager responsible for tracking Osama bin Laden, appear to mirror those of the 9/11 hijackers and their associates while they are in Spain. Associates of the hijackers gather in Granada, in southern Spain, at the beginning of July (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After). O’Neill arrives in Spain with some friends on July 5 and stays in Marbella until at least July 8. For at least part of the time in Marbella he is accompanied by Mark Rossini, an FBI agent currently detailed to Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, who translates for O’Neill in Spain and whose friend lets O’Neill use his beach house. (Weiss 2003, pp. 340-2; Wright 2006, pp. 316-7, 344-5) (Note: Marbella and Granada are both in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia, but are about 120 miles apart.) Lead hijacker Mohamed Atta then arrives in Madrid on July 8, leaving on July 9. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 244) O’Neill and Rossini arrive in Madrid on July 9 and O’Neill gives a speech to the Spanish Police Foundation there on July 10. (O'Neill 7/10/2001; Weiss 2003, pp. 340-2) After leaving Madrid, Atta travels to Catalonia, where he meets Ramzi bin al-Shibh and possibly other associates (see July 8-19, 2001). The authors of The Cell, one of whom—John Miller—was a close friend of O’Neill’s, will say O’Neill also visits the same part of Catalonia to make a speech at some point on his trip to Spain (note: it is unclear whether this is just a garbled account of his speech in Madrid, or whether he made two speeches). They will also say that he and Atta even stay at the same hotel, the Casablanca Playa in the small town of Salou, but at different times. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 289-90, 293) O’Neill leaves Spain on July 16, so he and his girlfriend Valerie James would probably be in the Salou area at around the same time as Atta, bin al-Shibh, and their associates. (Weiss 2003, pp. 340-2) The overlap between the 9/11 operatives on the one hand and O’Neill and Rossini on the other is usually ignored in media accounts, but the episode in Salou is mentioned in The Cell, which indicates it is a mere coincidence. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 289-90)

At the same time as Mohamed Atta and one of his associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, meet in the north of Spain to finalize the details of the 9/11 plot (see July 8-19, 2001), other al-Qaeda operatives hold a parallel meeting in Granada, in the south of the country. Spanish authorities are monitoring some of these operatives, at least, and overhear their discussions. On July 6, the Spanish intercept a call from Mamoun Darkazanli, an associate of Atta’s from Germany, to Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda affiliate in Spain, in which Darkazanli says that he has arrived in Granada. Yarkas tells Darkazanli that he has arrived in the city on July 10. They are joined by Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni and possibly Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a relative of Allouni’s wife and associate of Atta and Darkazanli from Germany. The Spanish later overhear a conversation in which Yarkas discusses Zammar’s movements at this time. Spanish authorities will later doubt that these four operatives actually meet Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain, but will suspect a connection between the two meetings, especially as Yarkas seems to have made preparations for the other meeting (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003; Miles 2005, pp. 305-313)

Some al-Qaeda operatives hold a meeting in northern Spain to finalize plans for the 9/11 attacks. Those allegedly present are listed below. The first two operatives listed are definitely present; it is less certain that the others are there:
bullet Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. (Olmedo 9/30/2001)
bullet Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an associate of Atta from Hamburg, arrives in Spain on July 9, and stays until July 16. Spanish authorities are notified of his arrival in the country by German intelligence (see (Around July 9, 2001)). (Frantz 5/1/2002)
bullet Some reports say that 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi attends, although if he does, he may use a false identity, as US immigration has no records of his departure or return. (Olmedo 9/30/2001; US Department of Justice 5/20/2002)
bullet The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia will later report that 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri meet Atta on July 16. (Associated Press 9/27/2001) However, there will be no mention of them attending the meeting in some other accounts. For example, their attendance will not be mentioned in the relevant section of the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5)
bullet Amer el-Azizi. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Shrader 1/23/2005) El-Azizi, who seems to have made preparations for the meeting, is under surveillance at this time, as Spanish authorities are listening in on his phone calls. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004) Calls possibly related to the meeting’s organization were overheard (see Before July 8, 2001). (Rotella 4/14/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon will later indict el-Azizi for helping plan 9/11 and say that he assisted the plotters by arranging accommodation for them and acting as a courier. However, US officials will be less certain of his involvement. (Shrader 1/23/2005) His arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).
bullet Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda-linked cell in Spain. (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003)
bullet Mohammed Belfatmi. Belfatmi is an associate of Yarkas, and lives near the hotels where Atta and bin al-Shibh stay. He will flee Europe just before 9/11 with Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see September 3-5, 2001). (Rotella 1/14/2003; BBC Worldwide Monitoring 12/2/2004)
bullet Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, associates of Atta’s from Germany.
bullet Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni.
bullet Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg. According to Spanish investigators, Bahaji is with Atta the entire time, and they both stay at the Monica Hotel. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
bullet 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). In 2002, Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview bin al-Shibh and KSM together before either of them are arrested (see April, June, or August 2002). Neither bin al-Shibh nor KSM will discuss any details of the meeting with Fouda, including who attended. KSM will neither confirm nor deny he was there. However, in a 2003 book, Fouda will claim that, according to Spanish investigators, the initial attendees are Atta, bin al-Shibh, Bahaji, and a fourth man who might be KSM. They are later joined by Alshehhi and two unnamed others. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137)
However, there is a parallel meeting in Granada, in the south of Spain, at this time, and Yarkas, Darkazanli, Zammar, and Allouni may only be at that meeting, and may not meet Atta and bin al-Shibh in person (see July 6, 2001 and Shortly After). (Dillon 11/20/2001; Rotella 1/14/2003) After being captured, bin al-Shibh will deny meeting anyone other than Atta while in Spain. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 243-5) However, questions will be raised about the quality of information obtained from detainees due to the methods—including torture—used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). The movements of Atta and his associates in Spain are apparently mirrored by those of FBI agents John O’Neill and Mark Rossini (see July 5-16, 2001).

Ramzi bin al-Shibh.Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: US Department of State]German authorities notify their Spanish counterparts of a trip by Ramzi bin al-Shibh to Spain, where he meets an associate, lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). Presumably, the notification is before or soon after the trip, but the original news report merely says, “Despite the fact that the German authorities informed Spain of Ramzi’s trip, the meeting in which the 11 September attacks were finalized was not detected.” Several of bin al-Shibh’s German associates are known to have been under surveillance around this time (see 1996, November 1, 1998-February 2001, and May 22, 2000), and, if the article if correct, this indicates that bin al-Shibh’s movements are also being monitored by German intelligence. Spanish authorities are monitoring some operatives who may interact with Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001), but the Spanish apparently do not conduct surveillance of the two men. (BBC Worldwide Monitoring 12/2/2004)

Near the end of his visit to Spain in July 2001 (see July 8-19, 2001), future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta sends a cell phone text message to three friends in Hamburg, Germany. The message reads: “Salam (greetings). This is for you, Abbas, and Mounir. Hasn’t the time come to fear God’s word. Allah. I love you all. Amir.” The message is sent to Said Bahaji, so he is the “you.” “Mounir” is Mounir El Motassadeq. “Abbas” is Abbas Tahir, a Sudanese friend of Ziad Jarrah’s who author Terry McDermott says is one of the Hamburg group. Atta signs the message “Amir” because he is generally known as Mohamed el-Amir in Germany. The information about this message will come from the BKA (German intelligence). It will be unknown if the BKA finds the message before or after 9/11. (McDermott 2005, pp. xi, 225, 303, 328)

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar appears to have foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Ibrahim Diab, a Lebanese national, has recently been recruited into the cell. Diab makes plans to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and Zammar pays for his travel expenses to the camp. Zammar is generally considered to be the main recruiter for the cell. Diab will later claim that Zammar warns him in August 2001 to leave for the camps as soon as possible because something big is about to happen. (Laabs 1/30/2003) In 2002, the Los Angeles Times will report: “Zammar’s bluster matched his size. In almost any discussion, his was the loudest voice and most radical view.… In part because of Zammar’s outspokenness, authorities tend to discount his role in the Sept. 11 plot. They concluded no one would entrust information to a braggart like him.” (McDermott 9/1/2002) Diab’s confession, made public in 2003, would seem to discredit the idea that Zammar was not trusted with knowledge of the 9/11 plot. And since Zammar is monitored for years before 9/11 (see March 1997-Early 2000), it also raises questions about what German intelligence might have learned from monitoring him. Diab will fly out of Germany on September 10, 2001, just one day before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). He will attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, but be arrested in Pakistan in late October and quickly deported back to Germany. He will confess his activities to German intelligence shortly thereafter, and then be released without charge (see October 29, 2001). (Simpson, Swanson, and Crewdson 2/23/2003)

Mohamed Atta stayed at the Las Vegas Econolodge.Mohamed Atta stayed at the Las Vegas Econolodge. [Source: Chris Farina/Corbis]The lead hijackers meet in Las Vegas for a summit a few weeks before 9/11. Investigators will believe that this is the “most crucial planning in the United States,” but will not understand why the hijackers choose Vegas, since they are all living on the East Coast at this time (see March 2001-September 1, 2001 and August 6-September 9, 2001). One senior official will speculate, “Perhaps they figured it would be easy to blend in.” (van Natta, and Zernike 11/4/2001) At least three of the plot leaders are in Las Vegas at this time. Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi fly from Dulles Airport to Los Angeles on an American Airlines Boeing 757, the same sort of plane they hijack on 9/11, and then continue to Las Vegas. Mohamed Atta also flies to Las Vegas from Washington National Airport. This is his second trip to Vegas, which was also previously visited by some of the other hijackers (see May 24-August 14, 2001). A few weeks earlier, Atta had traveled to Spain, possibly with some of the other hijackers, to finalize the plans for the attack with their associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 1, 17, 21 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 57-8 pdf file) Alhazmi will later be recalled by a hotel employee, who will say she ran into him at the Days Inn. According to her later account, he is “cold and abrupt,” in Vegas on “important business,” and will soon be traveling to Los Angeles. He asks for a list of Days Inns in Los Angeles, but does not want a reservation to be made. He also claims to be from Florida, although he is only thought to have spent a week there (see June 19-25, 2001). (Puit and Kalil 10/26/2001) A close associate of the hijackers, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, will later say in a 2002 interview that Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, and Khalid Almihdhar are also present in Vegas at this time. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137) Newsweek calls Vegas an “odd location” and comments: “They stayed in cheap hotels on a dreary stretch of the Strip frequented by dope dealers and $10 street hookers. Perhaps they wished to be fortified for their mission by visiting a shrine to American decadence. Or maybe they just wanted a city that was easy to reach by air from their various cells in Florida, New Jersey and San Diego.” (Thomas 10/15/2001)

Two apparent associates of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb), purchase tickets to fly to Pakistan on September 3, 2001. They will be joined on that flight by cell member Said Bahaji (see September 3-5, 2001). All three will disappear into Afghanistan thereafter. It is later discovered that Ahmed had been in e-mail contact with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) Note that these purchases occur one day before Zacarias Moussaoui’s arrest in Minnesota, suggesting the date for the 9/11 attacks was set before his arrest (see August 16, 2001).

Zacarias Moussaoui writes the phone number of Amer el-Azizi in his notebook. El-Azizi is a Spain-based militant who is linked to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see (November 2001)) and is thought to have helped set up a meeting between Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain in July 2001 (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001). It is unclear when the number is written in Moussaoui’s notebook or what type of contact there is between Moussaoui and el-Azizi, if any. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004) However, the connection to el-Azizi does not appear to be mentioned at Moussaoui’s trial (see March 6-May 4, 2006), even though it would be one of very few pieces of evidence potentially tying Moussaoui to the 9/11 plot. The reason for this is unclear. El-Azizi’s arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

In April 2001, the CIA analyzed some “intriguing information associated with a person known as ‘Mukhtar.’” The CIA didn’t know who this was at the time, only that he was associated with top al-Qaeda deputy Abu Zubaida and that he seemed to be involved in planning al-Qaeda activities. On August 28, 2001, the CIA receives a cable reporting that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) has the nickname of Mukhtar (which means “brain” in Arabic). However, apparently no one at the CIA’s bin Laden unit makes the connection between this new information and the April 2001 information. The 9/11 Commission writes, “Only after 9/11 would it be discovered that Muhktar/KSM had communicated with a phone that was used by [Ramzi] bin al-Shibh, and that bin al-Shibh had used the same phone to communicate with [Zacarias] Moussaoui [who is in US custody by this time.]” (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 322; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 277)

Zakariya Essabar.Zakariya Essabar. [Source: Interpol]Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar allegedly travels to Pakistan and delivers a message to al-Qaeda leaders about the timing of the 9/11 attacks. Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh will later be arrested and interrogated, and according to a 2005 report about his interrogations, Essabar delivers the simple message “eleven nine.” Most countries around the world, including Muslim countries, put the day before the month, so this is a reference to September 11, the date of the upcoming 9/11 attacks. This message is supposed to be sent to someone with the name Mukhtar in Pakistan. Mukhtar is a commonly used alias of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (see August 28, 2001), and he is in Karachi, Pakistan, at the time (see Early September 2001), so this is likely a reference to him. But Essabar apparently is unable to quickly find KSM, and he calls bin al-Shibh in Germany to say he is having trouble finding him. Presumably, bin al-Shibh loses contact with Essabar after this, so it is unclear what happens to the message. (Whitlock 5/24/2005) However, it is unclear how reliable bin al-Shibh’s claims may be, especially since he may be tortured later. Bin al-Shibh will give conflicting information about Essabar. At one point, he claims he knows nothing about Essabar at all. At another point, he claims that al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef told Essabar to try to acquire a US visa, but did not explain why, and Essabar had no foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. But at another point, he claims that Essabar was told the get the US visa so he “could travel to the United States to take part in the planned attacks.” (Reuters 5/21/2005; Whitlock 5/24/2005) While it may be uncertain if Essabar delivers a message on the timing of the 9/11 attacks, it is highly likely that he does flee to Afghanistan at this time. Others will later say they see him at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in late September 2001 (see September 10, 2001). His whereabouts after then will be unknown.

A courtroom sketch of Mohammed Mansour Jabarah.A courtroom sketch of Mohammed Mansour Jabarah. [Source: Andrea Shepard / Associated Press]Hambali, a top al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia, appears aware of the date of the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, a young Canadian citizen who recently joined al-Qaeda, meets Hambali in Karachi, Pakistan, to get instructions in carrying out an attack in Southeast Asia. Hambali tells him, “Make sure you leave before Tuesday” - September 11. Jabarah does heed the warning and flies to Southeast Asian on September 10. He will be arrested in 2002 and deported to Canada, where he will make a full confession about his al-Qaeda contacts (including an unheeded warning about the October 2002 Bali bombings (see August 21, 2002). (Bell 1/18/2003) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is also in Karachi and working with Jabarah and Hambali on future Southeast Asian plots, and KSM also warns Jabarah to travel before September 11. (McKenna 10/2004)

Said Bahaji at his 1999 wedding.Said Bahaji at his 1999 wedding. [Source: Public domain]Members of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg al-Qaeda cell leave Germany for Pakistan. Said Bahaji flies out of Hamburg on September 3, 2001, using his real name. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) German intelligence already has Bahaji under surveillance, and German border guards are under orders to report if he leaves the country, yet the border guards fail to note his departure (see September 3, 2001). (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003) German agents later discover two other passengers on the same flight traveling with false passports who stay in the same room with Bahaji when they arrive in Karachi, Pakistan. (McDermott 9/1/2002) Investigators now believe his flight companions were Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb), both Algerians in their late 40s. Three more associates—Mohammed Belfatmi, an Algerian extremist from the Tarragona region of Spain, and the brothers Mohammad Sarwar Joia and Patrick Joia—also travel on the same plane. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003; Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) Ramzi bin al-Shibh flies out of Germany on September 5 and stays in Spain a few days before presumably heading for Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). (McDermott 9/1/2002) Some of these men are reported to meet in Karachi around this time, possibly with others (see September 4-5, 2001).

Several al-Qaeda operatives connected to the 9/11 plot appear to have a meeting in Karachi, possibly to finalize details related to the plot. Some of the operatives arrive from Germany, via Istanbul, by plane (see September 3-5, 2001). They include Said Bahaji, an associate of the hijackers, Afghan brothers Mohammad Sarwar Joya and Patrick Joya, an Algerian named Mohammed Belfatmi who also just arrived on the same Istanbul to Karachi leg of the flight as the others. Belfatmi is said to have had a role in arranging a meeting in Spain between 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). Men known as Abdellah Hosayni and Ammar Moul are also on the flight from Germany. However, these last two apparently are traveling under false identities, and it will later be reported that they are really Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete) and Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb). An informer later says both Murabit and Ahmed attended the same al-Qaeda training camp as Bahaji. All five of these men - Bahaji, Murabit, Ahmed, the Joya brothers, and Belfatmi - stay in the same hotel once they arrive in Karachi. (Behar 10/30/2001; MacVicar 10/31/2001; Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) Ahmed is suspected by German investigators of having a “major role” in preparations for 9/11. (MacVicar 10/31/2001) A Pakistani newspaper will say that, “It was, in all probability, a meeting to tie up loose ends before the countdown to the attack.” (John 8/7/2003) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Hambali are in Karachi at this time, although it is unclear whether they meet with Bahaji and the others (see Early September 2001). The Joya brothers, who are apparently under surveillance by German police around this time, return to Istanbul on October 5 and 16. In Germany in late October, Patrick Joya will even talk to a reporter and admit recently traveling to Pakistan. (Behar 10/30/2001; MacVicar 10/31/2001; Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003) What happens to the Joya brothers after this time is unclear. Ahmed will later be arrested in the same raid that nabs al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, and he will be sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison (see March 28, 2002).

According to a later report by Agence France-Presse, Spanish prosecutor Pedro Rubira says that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is in Madrid, Spain, on this day. (Agence France Presse 6/1/2005) He previously met co-conspirator Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain in July (see July 8-19, 2001) and bin al-Shibh is in Madrid at this time (see September 5, 2001). (MSNBC 12/11/2001; McDermott 2005, pp. 230) However, there are no other known reports of Atta being in Madrid in September 2001. For example, no such trip is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission report (although the Agence France-Presse article comes one year after the 9/11 Commission’s report). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004)

According to a later interview with would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a courier sent by bin al-Shibh tells Osama bin Laden on this day when the 9/11 attacks will take place. (Fouda 9/9/2002) However, there are doubts about this interview (see April, June, or August 2002). The message may have been taken from bin al-Shibh in Germany to Pakistan by al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Zakariya Essabar (see Late August 2001).

Two peripheral members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, leave Germany to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Ibrahim Diab, a Lebanese national, and Bechim Ademi, a naturalized German, are said to be recent al-Qaeda recruits. They have been attending the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg also attended by many of the cell members. They will later claim that cell members Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Mohammed Haydar Zammar convinced them to go to Afghanistan for training (and Zammar paid for at least Diab’s ticket (see August 2001). By September 23, 2001, they will have reached a training camp near Kabul and begun weapons training. They will recognize Hamburg cell members Zakariya Essabar and Said Bahaji at the camp. Bahaji left Germany for Afghanistan in early September 2001 (see September 3-5, 2001) and Essabar made a similar trip around the same time (see Late August 2001). Essabar stays with the camp’s leaders and seems to have an important position. Diab and Ademi will be arrested in Pakistan in October 2001 (see October 29, 2001). (Simpson, Swanson, and Crewdson 2/23/2003) They will be sent back to Germany in November 2001, after pressure by the German government. They will be interrogated by German officials and reveal the information mentioned above. However, they will be released and not charged with any crime. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation 7/20/2004) It is unclear if the timing of their departure from Germany one day before the 9/11 attacks shows foreknowledge of the attacks or if it is just a coincidence.

The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the four hijackers take over Flight 93 at 9:28 a.m., one minute after the plane’s crew made their last communication with the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, the hijackers “wielded knives (reported by at least five callers); engaged in violence, including stabbing (reported by at least four callers and indicated by the sounds of the cockpit struggle transmitted over the radio); relocated the passengers to the back of the plane (reported by at least two callers); threatened use of a bomb, either real or fake (reported by at least three callers); and engaged in deception about their intentions (as indicated by the hijacker’s radio transmission received by FAA air traffic control).” Flight 93 suddenly drops 685 feet in the space of just 30 seconds, and the Cleveland Center hears two suspicious radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will add, “While this appears to show the exact time that the hijackers invaded the cockpit, we have found no conclusive evidence to indicate precisely when the terrorists took over the main cabin or moved passengers seated in the first-class cabin back to coach.” The four hijackers waited about 46 minutes after takeoff before beginning their takeover of Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39) Yet, the Commission claims, when alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta met with fellow Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain about two months earlier (see July 8-19, 2001), he’d said that the “best time [for the hijackers] to storm the cockpit would be about 10-15 minutes after takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 245) The Commission will state, “We were unable to determine why [the Flight 93 hijackers] waited so long.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39) The long wait is particularly notable, considering that Flight 93 had already been significantly delayed before taking off from Newark Airport (see 8:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, in an early timeline, Pentagon officials will state the hijacking occurred significantly earlier, at around 9:16, and in 2003, NORAD officials repeat this claim (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)

After the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is questioned and monitored by German intelligence. The US government pressures the German government to arrest him, but he is not arrested. (New York Times 1/18/2003) Zammar is a dual German and Syrian citizen. When he plans to travel to Morocco in October, he lacks a passport. So, on October 25, the German government gives him a passport good for one year, allowing him to leave the country. He goes to Morocco two days later. While in Morocco, he is captured and renditioned by US forces and sent to prison in Syria (see October 27-November 2001 and December 2001). Time magazine will report in 2002 that US officials are “angry at Germany for allowing several al-Qaeda suspects to flee in the weeks after 9/11. And some German officials concede they should have arrested Zammar last October.” (Washington Post 6/12/2002; Frank et al. 7/1/2002)

Some attendees of the Camp David meeting on September 15, 2001. From left to right: I. Lewis Libby, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz.Some attendees of the Camp David meeting on September 15, 2001. From left to right: I. Lewis Libby, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, George Bush, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz. [Source: PBS]President Bush meets with his advisers at Camp David for a day of intensive discussions about how to respond to the 9/11 attacks. CIA Director George Tenet has arrived there “with a briefcase stuffed with top-secret documents and plans, in many respects the culmination of more than four years of work on bin Laden, the al-Qaeda network and worldwide terrorism.” With him is his deputy, John McLaughlin, and counterterrorism chief Cofer Black. Also in the conference room with them, among others, are Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, and Colin Powell. For his 30-minute presentation, Tenet gives out a briefing packet titled “Going to War.” His presentation covers several key components for the fight against terrorism:
bullet Tenet advocates substantially stepping up “direct support of the Northern Alliance,” the main Afghan opposition group, as part of a strategy to create “a northern front, closing the safe haven” of Afghanistan. His idea is that “Afghan opposition forces, aided by the United States, would move first against the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, try to break the Taliban’s grip on that city and open up the border with Uzbekistan. From there the campaign could move to other cities in the north.” Tenet also explains that the CIA had begun working with a number of tribal leaders in the south of Afghanistan the previous year, and these could be enticed to joint a US-led campaign.
bullet The plan includes “a full-scale covert attack on the financial underpinnings of the terrorist network, including clandestine computer surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to locate the assets of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.”
bullet The CIA and FBI would work together to track down bin Laden supporters in the US.
bullet A key proposal is a recommendation that the president give the CIA “exceptional authorities” to destroy al-Qaeda. Tenet wants a broad intelligence order allowing the agency to conduct covert operations without requiring formal approval for each specific operation, thus authorizing it to operate without restraint. Tenet and his senior deputies would be permitted to approve “snatch” operations abroad. Journalist Bob Woodward calls this “truly exceptional power.”
bullet Tenet has with him a draft of a presidential intelligence order—a “finding”—that would give the CIA power “to use the full range of covert instruments, including deadly force.”
bullet Another proposal is that, with additional hundreds of millions of dollars for new covert action, the CIA could “buy” intelligence services of key Arab nations including Egypt, Jordan, and Algeria. These could act as surrogates for the US. As Bob Woodward points out, this “would put the United States in league with questionable intelligence services, some of them with dreadful human rights records. Some had reputations for ruthlessness and using torture to obtain confessions.”
bullet Tenet calls for the initiation of intelligence contact with certain rogue states, such as Libya and Syria, so as to obtain helpful information about the terrorists. (Subsequently, by early 2002, Syria will have emerged as one of the CIA’s most effective allies in the fight against al-Qaeda (see Early 2002-January 2003).)
bullet He has with him a top-secret document called the “Worldwide Attack Matrix.” This details covert operations in 80 countries that he is recommending or are already underway. “Actions ranged from routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks.” As Woodward describes, this proposal represents “a striking departure for US policy. It would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history.”
The president reportedly is much pleased with Tenet’s proposals, “virtually shouting ‘Great job!’” (Woodward 2002, pp. 74-78; Woodward and Balz 1/31/2002; Kessler 2003, pp. 234) He will grant all Tenet’s requests by the following Monday (see September 17, 2001). Tenet had presented a cruder version of the CIA plan at the White House two days earlier (see September 13, 2001).

The German government issues international arrest warrants for Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Said Bahaji, two members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, along with a few of the 9/11 hijackers. Bin al-Shibh was last seen in a Hamburg mosque in August 2001. Bahaji left Germany for Pakistan on September 3, and bin al-Shibh did the same on September 5 (see September 3-5, 2001). (Rubin 9/21/2001) Bin al-Shibh will be captured in Pakistan in September 2002 (see September 11, 2002). There will be no reports that Bahaji is ever captured or killed.

On September 24, 2001, the US freezes the accounts of 27 individuals and organizations, alleging that they had channeled money to al-Qaeda (see September 24, 2001). Included in the list is the Mamoun Darkazanli Import Export Company, which may have been used to funnel money to the hijackers (see June 2000-August 2001). US officials say Darkazanli took part in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia (see June 25, 1996). Darkazanli attended Said Bahaji’s wedding in 1999 (see October 9, 1999). (Tagliabue and Bonner 9/29/2001) On October 2, 2001, Darkazanli’s other accounts are also frozen. The US and German governments suspect Darkazanli of providing financial and logistical support to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. (Agence France-Presse 10/28/2001) Shortly thereafter, Spanish police listening in to Barakat Yarkas’ telephone hear Yarkas warn the leader of a Syrian extremist organization that Darkazanli has caught the “flu” going around. This is believed to be a coded reference meaning that communicating with Darkazanli is not safe (see August 1998-September 11, 2001 and Spring 2000). (Crewdson 11/17/2002)

Amer el-Azizi slipped surveillance after 9/11.Amer el-Azizi slipped surveillance after 9/11. [Source: El Pais]Amer el-Azizi, an al-Qaeda operative active in Spain, escapes a round-up of suspected al-Qaeda operatives by fleeing the country two weeks before arrests start to be made, even though he is under surveillance. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004; Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) El-Azizi, who had previously been arrested and released twice (see October 10, 2000), returns to Spain shortly after this and falls under police surveillance, but his arrest is frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see Shortly After November 21, 2001). He goes on to play a role in the Madrid train bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

The German government issues an international arrest warrant for Zakariya Essabar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, with a few of the 9/11 hijackers. Essabar left Germany to fly to Pakistan in late August 2001 (see Late August 2001). This is the third 9/11-related international warrant issued by Germany, following warrants for cell members Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Said Bahaji issued in late September 2001 (see September 21, 2001). (CNN 10/19/2001) Essabar was seen in an al-Qaeda training camp in late September 2001 (see September 10, 2001). He has not been heard of since.

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar travels from Germany to Morocco. Not long after, perhaps in November, he is arrested by Moroccan police with US assistance. Although he is a German citizen and under investigation by Germany, German intelligence remain unaware of his arrest, and only learn about it from the newspapers in June 2002. He is sent to Syria, where there are formal charges against him (see December 2001). Zammar reportedly now claims he recruited Mohamed Atta and others into the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. (Finn 6/19/2002) It is widely suspected that the US arranged for Zammar to be sent to Syria so that he could be more thoroughly interrogated using torture. The Germans are angry that the US has been submitting questions for Zammar and learning answers from Syria, but have not informed Germany of what they have learned (Rennie and Helm 6/20/2002; Bowers and Smucker 7/26/2002)

An Australian citizen named Mamdouh Habib is arrested in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities. He is arrested while traveling on a bus from Quetta to Karachi, after possibly attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Also arrested on the bus are Ibrahim Diab, a Lebanese national, and Bechim Ademi, a naturalized German, two recently recruited members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany that also included a few of the 9/11 hijackers (see September 10, 2001). Diab and Ademi are also coming from an al-Qaeda training camp, but they will later claim they had only just met Habib in Quetta before getting on the bus. Pakistani authorities appear to have been looking for Diab and Ademi, and only picked up Habib because he was with them. However, Diab and Ademi are soon returned to Germany and then released, while Habib is renditioned to Egypt and tortured there, and then sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba (see October 29, 2001-April 2002). (Australian Broadcasting Corporation 7/20/2004; Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed 7/26/2004 pdf file)

When investigators search the home of Amer el-Azizi, a known al-Qaeda operative, they find an e-mail address that connects him to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). El-Azizi helped arrange a meeting between lead hijacker Mohamed Atta and an associate, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, in the run-up to 9/11 (see July 8-19, 2001), although he was monitored by Spanish authorities at the time (see Before July 8, 2001) and arrested in Turkey in 2000 (see October 10, 2000). His arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). An indictment released in 2004 will say, “A fundamental document… connects Amer el-Azizi directly with those responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and concretely with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed via the e-mail address identified as Safar86@usa.net.” The e-mail address “was being used by an individual who facilitated trips for al-Qaeda members in direct connection with [KSM], organizer of the attacks.” A detainee will also later say that el-Azizi was in contact with the 9/11 plotters via e-mail. (Rotella 4/29/2004) After 9/11, however, when the Spanish want to indict el-Azizi, the US will be reluctant to turn the information over to them, and it will take six months to get it. Despite this, problems persist in information sharing between the US and Spain and this has an impact on prosecutions (see Mid-2002-June 1, 2006). (Johnson and Crawford 5/4/2004)

Baltasar Garzon.Baltasar Garzon. [Source: Associated Press]Spanish intelligence has been watching an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid for years, and has been aware since 1995 that cell members are committing a variety of crimes in Spain (see 1995 and After and Late 1995 and After), but none of them have ever been arrested. Finally, after investigators find links between the cell and the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg (see Shortly After September 11, 2001), the decision is made to shut the cell down. On November 13, 2001 Spanish police arrest cell leader Barakat Yarkas, a.k.a., Abu Dahdah, and ten other alleged members of his cell, including Yusuf Galan and Mohamed Needl Acaid. Spanish police, led by judge Baltasar Garzon, appear confident that they smashed the al-Qaeda presence in Spain. However, a number of suspects are left at large who will go on to take part in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see November 13, 2001). (Daly 11/14/2001; McLean 10/26/2004) Yarkas, Galan, Acaid, and others will be convicted for various crimes in 2005 (see September 26, 2005).

The Spanish intelligence agency CESID (later renamed CNI) frustrates the arrest of a senior member of al-Qaeda in Europe, Amer el-Azizi, by Spanish police. Most members of the cell of which el-Azizi was a member were arrested shortly before, but el-Azizi had avoided the round-up by fleeing abroad (see October 2001). After returning to Spain, he again falls under police surveillance, but, according to Spanish police union head Jose Manuel Sanchez Fornet, his arrest is prevented by “interference” from CESID. Fornet will later say that a police recording made at this time shows two CESID agents going to el-Azizi’s house. This alerts el-Azizi that he is under surveillance and he flees his home. (El Mundo (Madrid) 4/29/2004) El-Azizi then remains in Spain for some weeks, selling his car to an associate. When his apartment is searched, police find more than a dozen bags with radical Islamic books and videos. They also find videos of bin Laden on his computer and pamphlets from groups like Hamas. (Johnson et al. 3/19/2004; Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004; Rotella 4/29/2004) El-Azizi was arrested and released twice before (see October 10, 2000). He helped plan a meeting for Mohamed Atta just before 9/11 (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001), and will go on to be involved in the Madrid train bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

With help from the US, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a German and Syrian citizen believed to be a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with three of the 9/11 hijackers, is taken in secret to Syria. He had been arrested while visiting Morocco (see October 27-November 2001). When the German government learns of the arrest and transfer, it strongly protests the move. After his arrival in Syria, according to a former fellow prisoner, Zammar is tortured in the Far’ Falastin, or “Palestine Branch,” detention center in Damascus. (Rennie and Helm 6/20/2002; Priest and Gellman 12/26/2002; Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The center is run by military intelligence and reportedly is a place “where many prisoners remain held incommunicado.” (Finn 1/31/2003) His Syrian interrogators are reportedly provided with questions from their US counterparts. (Human Rights Watch 6/2004) This is alleged by Murhaf Jouejati, Adjunct Professor at George Washington University, who tells the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States that, “Although US officials have not been able to interrogate Zammar, Americans have submitted questions to the Syrians.” (911 Commission 7/9/2003) In the “Palestine Branch” prison, Zammar is locked up in cell number thirteen. According to Amnesty International, the cell measures 185 cm long, 90 cm wide and less than two meters high. Zammar is said to be about six feet tall and now “skeletal” in appearance. (Amnesty International 10/8/2004)

In late November 2001, State Department officials write a paper suggesting that the US has an opportunity to work with Iran to fight al-Qaeda. The CIA seconds the idea, and is willing to exchange information and coordinate border sweeps with Iran. However, neoconservatives led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld argue that the US cannot engage with Iran and other officially declared state sponsors of terrorism. In late December 2001, at a meeting of deputy cabinet officials, it is decided that the US will accept tactical information about terrorists from countries on the state sponsors list but offer nothing in return. This policy is called the “Hadley Rules” after Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, who chairs the meeting. One month later, President Bush publicly lists Iran as part of an “Axis of Evil,” greatly reducing Iran’s cooperation regarding al-Qaeda. (Gellman and Linzer 10/22/2004) However, the policy appears to be largely focused on Iran, as the US continues working with countries on the state sponsors list like Sudan and Syria against al-Qaeda (see June 13, 2002 and Early 2002-January 2003).

By early 2002, Syria emerges as one of the CIA’s most effective intelligence sources on al-Qaeda. Syria is one of seven countries on a State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. It has been on that list since 1979, mostly because of its support for Hezbollah combating Israel. But Syria is also an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda has many connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, especially its Syrian branch. According to journalist Seymour Hersh in New Yorker magazine, “The Syrians had compiled hundreds of files on al-Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated—and others who wanted to participate—in the September 11th attacks. Syria also penetrated al-Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe.” It appears Syrian intelligence may even have penetrated the Hamburg cell tied to the 9/11 plot, as hijacker Mohamed Atta and other cell members, such as Mohammed Haydar Zammar, occasionally worked at a German firm called Tatex Trading, which was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). For a time, the Syrians give much of what they know to the CIA and FBI. A former State Department official says, “Up through January of 2003, the cooperation was top-notch. Then we were going to do Iraq, and some people in the [Bush] administration got heavy-handed. They wanted Syria to get involved in operational stuff having nothing to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with Iraq. It was something Washington wanted from the Syrians, and they didn’t want to do it.” Hersh reports, “The collapse of the liaison relationship has left many CIA operatives especially frustrated. ‘The guys are unbelievably pissed that we’re blowing this away,’ a former high-level intelligence official told me. ‘There was a great channel… The Syrians were a lot more willing to help us, but they’—[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and his colleagues—“want to go in [Syria after the Iraq war].’” (Hersh 7/18/2003)

Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb).Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb). [Source: US Defense Department]Alleged al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Labed Ahmed (a.k.a. Ahmed Taleb) is arrested in Faisalabad, Pakistan, as part of a series of raids that also results in the arrest of al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida and other suspected al-Qaeda operatives (see March 28, 2002). Apparently, he is in the same house as Zubaida when both of them are arrested. Ahmed is transferred to US custody two months later, and then sent to the US-run prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, on August 5, 2002.
History of Robbery and Drug Dealing - Ahmed is an Algerian in his late 40s. In the early 1980s, he served in the Algerian army for four years. He was found guilty several times of robbery. In the early 1990s, he lived in Italy and was found guilty several times of drug dealing and robbery. From 1994 onwards he lived in Hamburg, Germany, and spent a total of two years in prison for a variety of crimes, including robbery and credit card fraud. He continued to deal illegal drugs. Eventually, he became a radical Islamist and associated with members of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, although when and how this happened is unclear. (Note that in 1995, Hamburg cell member and future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta was investigated for petty drug crimes (see 1995).) (US Department of Defense 9/16/2005)
Plane Flight with Hamburg Cell Members - On September 3, 2001, Ahmed flew to Pakistan with cell member Said Bahaji, another older Algerian named Ismail Bin Murabit (a.k.a. Ismail Ben Mrabete), and others suspected of links to the Hamburg cell. They stayed in the same hotel when they arrived in Karachi, Pakistan. Information on Ahmed’s travel was uncovered by German investigators (see September 3-5, 2001).
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan, Hiding in Pakistan - According to Ahmed’s 2008 Guantanamo file, Ahmed confesses that he, Bin Murabit, and Bahaji traveled together to the al-Faruq training camp near Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, they met Zakariya Essabar, another Hamburg cell member who had just left Germany (see Late August 2001). Ahmed and Bin Murabit stayed together and trained at a variety of locations in Afghanistan. Later in 2001, they fought against US forces near Bagram, Afghanistan. Ahmed then snuck across the Pakistan border with the help of the Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group, and lived in the same safe house as Zubaida and other militants for about a month before they are all captured. Apparently, Ahmed split up from Bin Murabit at some point, because Bin Murabit is not captured, and it is unclear what happens to him. (US Department of Defense 4/23/2008) (Note that the contents of these Guantanamo files are often based on dubious sources, and sometimes on torture (see April 24, 2011).) Despite Ahmed’s links to the Hamburg cell and Zubaida, he will be transferred to Algeria on November 10, 2008. It is unknown if he is set free or imprisoned by the Algerian government. (New York Times 4/25/2011)

Ramzi bin al-Shibh.Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: FBI]It is originally reported that Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda interviews 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and 9/11 associate Ramzi Bin al-Shibh at a secret location in Karachi, Pakistan, in either June (Fielding 9/8/2002) or August. (Tremlett 9/9/2002) Details and audio footage of the interview come out between September 8 and 12, 2002. The video footage of the interview al-Qaeda promised to hand over is never given to Al Jazeera. (Shahine 9/8/2002) Both figures claim the 9/11 attacks were originally going to target nuclear reactors, but “decided against it for fear it would go out of control.” Interviewer Fouda is struck that KSM and bin al-Shibh remember only the hijackers’ code names, and have trouble remembering their real names. (Fouda 9/9/2002) KSM, who calls himself the head of al-Qaeda’s military committee and refers to bin al-Shibh as the coordinator of the “Holy Tuesday” operation, reportedly acknowledges “[a]nd, yes, we did it.” (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 38) These interviews “are the first full admission by senior figures from bin Laden’s network that they carried out the September 11 attacks.” (Fielding 9/8/2002) Some, however, call Fouda’s claims into doubt. For example, the Financial Times states: “Analysts cited the crude editing of [Fouda’s interview] tapes and the timing of the broadcasts as reasons to be suspicious about their authenticity. Dia Rashwan, an expert on Islamist movements at the Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies in Cairo, said: ‘I have very serious doubts [about the authenticity of this tape]. It could have been a script written by the FBI.’” (Drummond 9/11/2002) KSM is later variously reported to be arrested in June 2002, killed or arrested in September 2002, and then arrested in March 2003. After this last arrest report, for the first time Fouda claims this interview took place in April, placing it safely before the first reports of KSM’s capture. (Guardian 3/4/2003; CTV Television 3/6/2003) Bin al-Shibh also gets captured several days after Fouda’s interview is broadcast, and some reports say he is captured because this interview allows his voice to be identified. (Burke 9/15/2002; CBS News 10/9/2002) As a result, Fouda has been accused of betraying al-Qaeda, and now fears for his life. (Gumbel 9/17/2002) As the Washington Post states, “Now Al Jazeera is also subject to rumors of a conspiracy.” (Williams 9/15/2002) Yet after being so reviled by al-Qaeda supporters, Fouda is later given a cassette said to be a bin Laden speech. (MSNBC 11/18/2002) US officials believe the voice on that cassette is “almost certainly” bin Laden, but one of the world’s leading voice-recognition institutes said it is 95 percent certain the tape is a forgery. (BBC 11/18/2002; BBC 11/29/2002) It will later be revealed that details of the interview were told to the CIA in mid-June 2002, which directly resulted in bin al-Shibh’s arrest a few months later (see June 14, 2002 and Shortly After).

Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. [Source: Qatar embassy]Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda recently interviewed 9/11 figures Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), though there are conflicting accounts about whether the interview took place before or after KSM was publicly identified as the 9/11 mastermind (see April, June, or August 2002). Author Ron Suskind will later claim in the book The One Percent Doctrine that on June 14, 2002, Fouda went to his superiors at Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar and told them about the interview. He speaks to Sheikh Hamad bin Thamer al-Thani, the chairman of Al Jazeera and the cousin of the emir of Qatar, and a few others. At this time, the US is intensely pressuring the Qatari government to get Al Jazeera to tone down what the US perceives as anti-American news coverage. In fact, it is widely believed in Qatar that the US deliberately bombed the Al Jazeera office in Kabul, Afghanistan, in November 2001 to send a message. Perhaps as a result of this pressure, a few days after Fouda reveals his interview, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, tells the CIA all about it. Fouda described some of al-Qaeda’s operational plans and even had a good idea where the apartment was in Karachi, Pakistan, where the interview took place, and what floor he had been on. Suskind claims that “No one, not even Al Jazeera management, knew the emir was making the call” to the CIA. US intelligence begins an intense surveillance of Karachi in an attempt to find KSM and bin al-Shibh (see Before September 11, 2002). Mostly because of this lead, bin al-Shibh will be arrested in Karachi in September 2002, around the time when Fouda’s interview is finally aired in public (see September 11, 2002). (Suskind 2006, pp. 134-140) Interestingly, in early September 2002, it will be reported that KSM was arrested in an apartment in Karachi on June 16, 2002, which would be right about when the CIA was given this information (see June 16, 2002).

Hamburg al-Qaeda cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is being held in a prison in Syria, Time magazine reports. According to an unnamed US intelligence source, Zammar is providing useful information about al-Qaeda while being tortured and interrogated by Syrian intelligence. “He’s like Abu Zubaida,” the source says. “He’s kind of cooperating. Or he’s cooperating without realizing that he’s doing it.” Time reports that US officials say “no Americans are in the room with the Syrians who interrogate Zammar. US officials in Damascus submit written questions to the Syrians, who relay Zammar’s answers back. State Department officials like the arrangement because it insulates the US government from any torture the Syrians may be applying to Zammar. And some State Department officials suspect that Zammar is being tortured.” German officials are angry at the arrangement, because they say they are not getting any of the new intelligence from Zammar. They also complain that they didn’t even know until recently that the US had arranged for Zammar to be renditioned from Morocco to Syria in late 2001 (see December 2001). (Frank et al. 7/1/2002) German officials will make a secret agreement with the Syrian government that gives them access to Zammar in late 2002. But Germans will only be able to meet with him one time (see November 20-22, 2002). US cooperation with Syria on counterterrorism will collapse in early 2003, so presumably US intelligence loses access to reports on Zammar’s interrogations at that time (see Early 2002-January 2003).

Abdulaziz Alomari filmed speaking in Afghanistan in early 2001. He stands in front of a large map of the world.Abdulaziz Alomari filmed speaking in Afghanistan in early 2001. He stands in front of a large map of the world. [Source: Spiegel TV]Details of an Al Jazeera interview with al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see April, June, or August 2002) are widely publicized starting on September 8, 2002. (Fielding 9/8/2002; Fouda 9/9/2002; Tremlett 9/9/2002) But there are numerous doubts about this interview, since there is no video footage and only audio footage from bin al-Shibh. It has further been suggested that the broadcast of bin al-Shibh’s voice in the interview helps in his arrest (see September 11, 2002). (Burke 9/15/2002; CBS News 10/9/2002) Bin al-Shibh’s voice is first broadcast on September 9, 2002, as part of uncredited narration on another documentary released that day (see September 9, 2002). His voice is only publicly identified as his on the morning of September 11, 2002, just hours before bin al-Shibh is said to be arrested. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 159) Al Jazeera also broadcasts footage of hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari speaking against the US filmed in Afghanistan in early 2001 (see September 9, 2002) and other footage of some other hijackers (see September 9, 2002). (Drummond 9/11/2002)

Tatex logo.
Tatex logo. [Source: Tatex]On September 10, 2002, German police raid the Tatex Trading company, a small textile business located just outside of Hamburg. According to Newsweek, German authorities has been “keeping a close watch on the company… for years.” Germans begin preparing a case against the company and the US prepares to freeze the company’s assets. But by June 2003, the investigation is closed and no action is taken by the US or Germany. Newsweek will claim that “Some US and German officials suggest that both countries decided not to proceed with legal action against Tatex to avoid antagonizing the government of Syria.” (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 9/7/2003; Hosenball 1/18/2004) The New Yorker will claim “Tatex was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence in the eighties; one of its shareholders was Mohammed Majed Said, who ran the Syrian intelligence directorate from 1987 to 1994.” (Hersh 7/18/2003) Some believe the Syrians infiltrated the company to spy on extremist Syrian exiles in Hamburg, while others believe Syrians were using the company as a front to illegally acquire high-tech equipment from the West. It is claimed that the investigation into Tatex is dropped because Syria has been cooperative with Germany and the US in other areas. (Hosenball 1/18/2004) Abdul-Matin Tatari, the Syrian in charge of Tatex, admits that his company had employed Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli, both of whom have been tied to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Further, the Chicago Tribune claims, “Investigators also say Mohamed Atta himself worked for a time at Tatex, something Tatari vehemently denies. But Tatari admits that one of his sons signed Atta’s petition to establish an Islamic ‘study group’ at Hamburg’s Technical University that served as a rendezvous for the hijackers and their supporters.” Tatari’s son took trips with Mounir El Motassadeq, who also has been tied to the Hamburg cell. Tatari, Zammar, Darkazanli, and Atta all are believed to be members of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society banned in Egypt. (Crewdson and Cohen 11/1/2002)

Ramzi bin al-Shibh arrested in Pakistan.Ramzi bin al-Shibh arrested in Pakistan. [Source: Associated Press]Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh is arrested after a huge gunfight in Karachi, Pakistan, involving thousands of police. (Burke 9/15/2002) He is considered “a high-ranking operative for al-Qaeda and one of the few people still alive who know the inside details of the 9/11 plot.” (Risen 9/13/2002) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) called bin al-Shibh “the coordinator of the Holy Tuesday [9/11] operation” in an interview aired days before. Captured with him in safe house raids on the same day or the day before are approximately nine associates (see September 10-11, 2002), as well as numerous computers, phones, and other evidence. (Risen 9/13/2002; Elliott 9/15/2002) There are conflicting claims that either Mohammed is killed in the raid (Shahzad 10/30/2002; Daily Telegraph 3/4/2003; Shahzad 3/6/2003) ; shot while escaping (Australian Broadcasting Corporation 3/2/2003) ; someone who looks like him is killed, leading to initial misidentification (McGirk 1/20/2003) ; someone matching his general appearance is captured (Associated Press 9/16/2002) ; or that he narrowly escapes capture but his young children are captured. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002)

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s (KSM’s) children, who were captured in a September 2002 raid on a house KSM used (see September 11, 2002), are allegedly tortured following their capture. A statement that they are tortured is made in a submission to a Guantanamo Bay hearing to determine the status of a detainee called Majid Khan. The submission is made by Khan’s father, based on information from another of his sons. It reads: “The Pakistani guards told my son that the boys were kept in a separate area upstairs and were denied food and water by other guards. They were also mentally tortured by having ants or other creatures put on their legs to scare them and get them to say where their father was hiding.” (US department of Defense 4/15/2007 pdf file) Human Rights Watch, based on eyewitness accounts, says that KSM’s children are held in an adult detention center (see June 7, 2007), and KSM also says that his children are abused in US custody (see March 10-April 15, 2007). (US Department of Defense 3/10/2007 pdf file; Parsons 6/7/2007)

CBS reports that in the days after the arrest of Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see September 11, 2002) and four other al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan on September 11, 2002 (see September 10-11, 2002), “a search of the home of the five al-Qaeda suspects turned up passports belonging to members of the family of Osama bin Laden.” No more details, such as which family members, or why bin al-Shibh’s group had these passports, is given. (CBS News 9/17/2002)

President Bush hosts a dinner meeting with a group of Republican governors at the White House. As deputy press secretary Scott McClellan will later recall, because the meeting is private—no press is allowed—Bush is “conspicuously candid with his former colleagues, now trusted friends and political allies.… Bush’s forthrightness about his thinking and approach on Iraq [is] revealing.” Bush boasts of the recent capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see September 11, 2002) and says of Osama bin Laden, “[W]e don’t know where he is, but he has been diminished.” He then turns to Iraq: “It is important to know that Iraq is an extension of the war on terror,” he says. “In the international debate, we are starting to shift the burden of guilt to the guilty. The international community is risk averse. But I assure you I am going to stay plenty tough.” He repeats his belief that if the international community brings enough pressure to bear, the Iraqi people will take matters into their own hands: “I believe regime change can occur if we have strong, robust inspections. Saddam Hussein is a guy who is likely to have his head show up on a platter” if enough outside pressure is brought to bear. Of Hussein, Bush says: “He is a hateful, ugly, repugnant man who needs to go. He is also paranoid. This is a guy who killed his own security guards recently. I would like to see him gone peacefully. But if I unleash the military, I promise you it will be swift and decisive.” He then tells the governors how to handle questions from possible critics: “Don’t fall into the argument that there is no one to replace Saddam Hussein.… And our planning will make sure there is no oil disruption; we are looking at options to enhance oil flow.” To sum up, Bush says: “Military force is my last option, but it may be the only choice.… I’m gonna make a prediction. Write this down. Afghanistan and Iraq will lead that part of the world to democracy. They are going to be the catalyst to change the Middle East and the world.” In the questioning period, Bush tells the governors that while he intends to invade Iraq sooner rather than later, he is aware that the political timing of the decision is important, with the midterm elections approaching. He reiterates: “[I]f we have to go [into Iraq], we will be tough and swift and it will be violent so troops can move very quickly.… If we go, we will use the full force and the might of the US military (see February 25, 2003).… I believe in the power of freedom.” After the meeting, Governor John Rowland (R-CT), the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, calls the meeting a “heart to heart” on Iraq. But, McClellan will later reflect, “it was also a frank strategy powwow between the leader of a campaign and some important members of his team—a collection of local politicians who could play a crucial role in helping to generate popular support for the decision to invade.” (McClellan 2008, pp. 139-141)

At a Republican fundraiser, President Bush erroneously labels captured Islamic militant Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002) as “one of the top three leaders” of al-Qaeda. Senior government officials have long been aware that many intelligence officials believe Zubaida to be little more than a low-level “gofer” for al-Qaeda (see Shortly After March 28, 2002 and April 9, 2002 and After). Bush says, apparently boasting of the deaths of some captured suspects: “I would say we’ve hauled in—arrested, or however you want to put it—a couple of thousand of al-Qaeda. Some of them are former leaders. Abu Zubaida was one of the top three leaders in the organization. Like number weren’t as lucky, they met a different kind of fate. But they’re no longer a problem. We’re slowly but surely rounding them up. The other day we got this guy, [Ramzi b]in al-Shibh. He popped his head up. He’s not a problem (see September 11, 2002). Slowly but surely. And I’m not giving up. There’s not a calendar on my desk that says, okay, on this day, you quit. That’s just not the way I think.” (Bush 10/14/2002)

German investigators believe they know of nine people who are still living and who played roles in assisting the 9/11 plot, the Chicago Tribune reports. An unnamed senior German intelligence official says he believes these nine cover everyone linked to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell who helped plan, finance, or carry out the plot. However, he says “there may be people still in Hamburg who had a certain knowledge” of the plot. The nine are:
bullet Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni. He is considered the head of the 9/11 plot in Germany while the hijackers were living in the US. He was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and put in the secret CIA prison system (see September 11, 2002).
bullet Mounir El Motassadeq, a Moroccan. He knew the others in the Hamburg cell and trained in Afghanistan (see May 22 to August 2000). He has been arrested and charged with a role in the 9/11 plot. He will later be convicted (see January 8, 2007).
bullet Abdelghani Mzoudi, a Moroccan. Mzoudi lived with Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg cell, and he is alleged to have attended a training camp in Afghanistan in 2000 (see Summer 2000). He has been arrested in Germany and charged with a role in the 9/11 attacks. He will later be acquitted after the US fails to cooperate with German prosecutors (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005).
bullet Barakat Yarkas, a Spaniard. He is alleged to be the leader of al-Qaeda in Spain. Germans believe he helped arrange a meeting between Atta and bin al-Shibh in Spain two months before 9/11 (see July 8-19, 2001). He is imprisoned in Spain on various terrorism charges. He will later be convicted to 12 years in prison, but not for any role in 9/11 (see September 26, 2005).
bullet Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a Moroccan. He was investigated for al-Qaeda ties for years prior to 9/11. He was captured in Morocco after 9/11 and renditioned to a prison in Syria (see December 2001).
bullet Said Bahaji, a German. He is said to be a computer expert who taught Atta and others how to use computers to communicate. He fled Germany just before 9/11 (see September 3-5, 2001). There is a warrant for his arrest (see September 21, 2001), but he remains free.
bullet Zakariya Essabar, a Moroccan. He lived with Atta, Bahaji, and others. He trained in Afghanistan and attempted to get a US visa (see January-October 2000). He fled Germany just before 9/11 (see Late August 2001). There is a warrant for his arrest (see October 19, 2001), but he remains free overseas.
bullet Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian. He had been investigated for al-Qaeda ties for years before 9/11 (see 1993), and he knew Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and other members of the Hamburg cell (see October 9, 1999). He remains free in Germany (see November 11, 2010).
bullet Abdul-Matin Tatari, a Syrian. He runs a textile company called Tatex Trading that investigators suspect helped get money and visas for al-Qaeda operatives (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). He was questioned on September 10, 2002, but he remains free in Germany. (Crewdson 10/22/2002)
More than Just Nine - But a few months later, the Chicago Tribune will report that investigators believe there are many more members of the Hamburg cell than was previously reported (see February 25, 2003). For instance, one likely participant who will only become publicly known many years later is Naamen Meziche. He was friends with Atta and others in the Hamburg cell, and he will be killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010).

Assef Shawkat, head of Syrian intelligence.Assef Shawkat, head of Syrian intelligence. [Source: Agence France-Presse]German intelligence officials are able to interview Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg with some of the 9/11 hijackers, while he is being secretly held in a Syrian prison. Zammar was born and raised in Syria but later became a German citizen. He was arrested in Morocco in late 2001 and sent by the US to Syria for torture and interrogation (see October 27-November 2001 and December 2001).
Secret Deal between Syria and Germany - In July 2002, German officials met with Syrian officials at the German Federal Chancellery in Berlin. The Syrians were led by Assef Shawkat, a trusted associate and relative of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Germans included the heads of the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA). The Syrians wanted the Germans to call off a German legal case that had charged two Syrians, one of them an employee at the Syrian embassy, with espionage. The Syrians also wanted Germany to call off an investigation into President Assad’s uncle, Faisal Sammak, for storing explosives at a diplomatic residence, which resulted in a 1983 bombing in Berlin that killed one person. The Germans in return wanted the Syrians to disband their network of spies in Germany, and they wanted access to Zammar. The Germans and Syrians struck a deal based on these demands. Shortly thereafter, German prosecutors dropped the charges against the two Syrians accused of espionage. In return, German officials are allowed to meet with Zammar as long as the meeting and all information from it remain secret.
Meeting with Zammar - On November 20, 2002, six German intelligence officials, including those from the BND and BKA, plus those from the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), go to Damascus, Syria, to see Zammar. The prison is notorious for frequently using torture, and the German officials cannot miss that Zammar has been ill-treated and tortured. In fact, Zammar used to weigh about 300 pounds, and he has lost around 100 pounds. Zammar speaks with surprising candor, perhaps feeling confident that the Germans will never be able to use his confession in any criminal case because he has been so clearly tortured by the Syrians. Zammar admits that he attended a militant training camp in Afghanistan in 1991. He attended another Afghan camp in 1994, where he learned how to use poison and various weapons. In the summer of 1995, he fought with the Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs. In September 2000, he says he brought money to Afghanistan for al-Qaeda and even had a face-to-face meeting with Osama bin Laden (see September-October 2000).
Zammar's Link to the 9/11 Plotters - Zammar claims that he met 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg in 1996, and met hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh soon thereafter. He met hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in 1998, and had more contact with him. Zammar claims he helped Atta, bin al-Shibh, Alshehhi, and hijacker Ziad Jarrah get to Afghanistan in late 1999. However, when they returned, he only heard a general account of their training and he was not told anything about the 9/11 plot. Zammar had a sense that something big was happening, because in early September 2001, many of the members of the Hamburg cell left Germany for Afghanistan around the same time. For instance, when cell member Said Bahaji left Germany (see September 3-5, 2001), Zammar and some other friends (including Mounir El Motassadeq and Abdelghani Mzoudi) accompanied him to the airport to say goodbye. The German officials realize that Zammar may not be as honest about his knowledge of the 9/11 plot as he is with other details, but they are fairly certain from their intelligence investigation that he supported the hijackers in a general way without having detailed foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. (Stark 11/21/2005) However, in 2003 it will emerge that another al-Qaeda operative told investigators that Zammar told him in August 2001 to leave Germany very soon because something big was about to happen (see August 2001). So Zammar may not have been honest on his knowledge of the 9/11 plot. (Laabs 1/30/2003)
Intelligence Cannot Be Used - The German officials show Zammar a series of photographs of suspected German militants and ask him to identify them. He does identify and discuss some of them, including German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli. Discussions with Zammar continue for three days. However, none of his confession will subsequently be used in any court cases. Der Spiegel will later comment, “The six officials [who questioned Zammar] and their agencies know full well that no court operating under the rule of law would ever accept an interrogation conducted in a Damascus prison notorious for its torture practices.”
Secret Deal Falls Apart - German officials plan to return to Syria and question Zammar some more. However, this never happens because the Syrians renege on their part of the deal, after they fail to cut back on their spying efforts in Germany. One anonymous German official will later say, “The [deal] was an attempt, but we now know that it was a mistake.” (Stark 11/21/2005)

Ramzi bin al-Shibh.Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: Uli Deck / Agence France-Presse]Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg cell, is allegedly flown to Jordan and tortured there. Bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan on September 11, 2002, and held by US forces (see September 11, 2002). According to a 2008 report by the watchdog group Human Rights Watch, the US takes bin al-Shibh to the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and then flies him to Jordan. A former detainee in a secret prison run by Jordanian intelligence will later tell Human Rights Watch that he was held in a cell next to bin al-Shibh in late 2002. He says he was able to briefly talk to bin al-Shibh, and bin al-Shibh told him that he had been tortured while in Jordanian custody. He said he had suffered electric shocks, forced nakedness, sleep deprivation, and being made to sit on sticks and bottles in sexually humiliating ways. (Human Rights Watch 4/8/2008) The Washington Post will similarly report in late 2007, “Although hard evidence is elusive, some former inmates have reported being detained in the same wing as Ramzi Bin al-Shibh… said Abdulkareem al-Shureidah, an Amman lawyer. “He was detained in Jordanian jails, definitely.” (Whitlock 12/1/2007) Bin al-Shibh will be transferred out of CIA custody into the Guantanamo prison in 2006, but exactly where he was held between 2002 and 2006 remains unclear (see September 2-3, 2006).

Mounir El Motassadeq, an alleged member of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, is convicted in Germany of accessory to murder in the 9/11 attacks. His is given the maximum sentence of 15 years. (Associated Press 2/19/2003) El Motassadeq admitted varying degrees of contact with Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Ziad Jarrah, and Zakariya Essabar; admitted he had been given power of attorney over Alshehhi’s bank account; and admitted attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan from May to August 2000 (see May 22 to August 2000); but he claimed he had nothing to do with the 9/11 plot. (Butler 10/24/2002) The conviction is the first one related to 9/11, but as the Independent puts it, “there are doubts whether there will ever be a second.” This is because intelligence agencies have been reluctant to turn over evidence, or give access to requested witnesses. In El Motassadeq’s case, his lawyers tried several times unsuccessfully to obtain testimony by two of his friends, bin al-Shibh and Mohammed Haydar Zammar—a lack of evidence that will later become grounds for overturning his conviction. (Gumbel 2/20/2003)

The Chicago Tribune reveals that there appear to be many more members of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg cell than previously reported. While many members of the cell died in the attacks or fled Germany just prior to 9/11, up to a dozen suspected of belonging to the Hamburg cell stayed behind, apparently hoping to avoid government scrutiny. Many of their names have not yet been revealed. In some cases, investigators still do not know the names. For instance, phone records show that someone using the alias Karl Herweg was in close communication with the Hamburg cell and Zacarias Moussaoui, but Herweg’s real identity is not known. (Crewdson, Swanson, and Simpson 2/25/2003)

A photo taken during KSM’s alleged arrest in Pakistan.A photo taken during KSM’s alleged arrest in Pakistan. [Source: Associated Press]Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is reportedly arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. (Gannon 3/1/2003) Officials claim that he is arrested in a late-night joint Pakistani and FBI raid, in which they also arrest Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, the purported main financer of the 9/11 attacks. (Williams, Mitchell, and Windrem 3/3/2003) An insider informant allegedly tips off authorities to KSM’s location, and is given the $25 million reward money for his capture (see Shortly Before February 29 or March 1, 2003). However, some journalists immediately cast serious doubts about this arrest. For instance, MSNBC reports, “Some analysts questioned whether Mohammed was actually arrested Saturday, speculating that he may have been held for some time and that the news was made public when it was in the interests of the United States and Pakistan.” (Williams, Mitchell, and Windrem 3/3/2003) There are numerous problems surrounding the US-alleged arrest of KSM:
bullet Witnesses say KSM is not present when the raid occurs. (Haven and Bangash 3/2/2003; Ahmad 3/2/2003; Australian Broadcasting Corporation 3/2/2003; McCarthy 3/3/2003; Eckholm and Johnston 3/3/2003)
bullet There are differing accounts about which house he is arrested in. (Gannon 3/1/2003; Meyer 3/2/2003; Rashid 3/3/2003)
bullet There are differing accounts about where he was before the arrest and how authorities found him. (Saporito and McGirk 3/1/2003; Khan and Schmidt 3/2/2003; Khan and Schmidt 3/2/2003; Eckholm and Johnston 3/3/2003; Johnston 3/4/2003)
bullet Some accounts have him sleeping when the arrest occurs and some don’t. (Meyer 3/2/2003; Ikram and Brunnstrom 3/2/2003; Eckholm and Johnston 3/3/2003; Daily Telegraph 3/4/2003)
bullet Accounts differ on who arrests him—Pakistanis, Americans, or both. (CNN 3/2/2003; Meyer 3/2/2003; Eckholm 3/2/2003; Rashid 3/3/2003; Reid and Hussein 3/3/2003; Lumpkin 3/3/2003)
bullet There are previously published accounts that KSM may have been killed in September 2002 (see September 11, 2002).
bullet There are accounts that he was captured in June 2002 (see June 16, 2002).
These are just some of the difficulties with the arrest story. There are so many problems with it that one Guardian reporter says, “The story appears to be almost entirely fictional.” (Hilton 3/6/2003)
Account by 9/11 Commissioners Conflicts - In addition, 9/11 Commission chairman Tom Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton will write in a 2006 book that the arrest is made in an apartment in Karachi and carried out by a joint CIA, FBI, and Pakistani team (see Early 2003).
Account by Musharraf Also Conflicts - Also in 2006, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will publish a memoir in which he claims that KSM was arrested on February 29, 2003 (instead of the widely cited March 1, 2003), and held by Pakistani forces for three days, “during which time we interrogated him fully. Once we were done with him and had all the information we wanted, we handed him over to the United States government.” (Musharraf 2006, pp. 193)

In April 2003, Spanish police alert judge Baltasar Garzon to the existence of an Islamist militant cell in Madrid. Garzon has generally led al-Qaeda related investigations in Spain. An intelligence report to Garzon details a cell led by Mustapha Maymouni. Its assistant leaders are said to be Driss Chebli, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, and the brothers Hassan and Mohammed Larbi ben Sellam. The cell is linked to the radical Takfir Wal Hijra movement and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (MICG). The MICG is said to be led by Amer el-Azizi, who escaped arrest in Spain (see Shortly After November 21, 2001), and an international arrest warrant has been issued for him. The cell has links to el-Azizi as well. In fact, the wife of one of the cell members recently told the authorities that Fakhet and others are staying in contact with el-Azizi by e-mail (see January 4, 2003), a lead that apparently is not pursued. In May 2003, suicide bombings in Casablanca, Morocco, kill 45, and the MICG is quickly identified as the group behind the attacks. Maymouni had gone to Morocco just before the bombings and is arrested there later in May (see Late May-June 19, 2003). On June 25, 2003, Chebli is arrested in Spain for his links to the Casablanca bombings. He will later be accused of a minor role in the 9/11 plot and sentenced to six years in prison (see September 26, 2005). However, the others are not arrested at this time. The police who are monitoring Fakhet will later say they do not understand why Fakhet at least was not arrested after the Casablanca bombings due to his link to Maymouni, who is his brother-in-law. Authorities will claim he was not arrested because there was no evidence he was involved in any plot. (El Mundo (Madrid) 3/3/2007) However, this cell is being monitored by a variety of means, including the use of an informant named Abdelkader Farssaoui, a.k.a. Cartagena (see October 2002-June 2003). Even before the Casablanca bombings, Farssaoui tells his handlers that this cell is discussing launching attacks in Morocco and Spain. (Lazaro 10/18/2004) Furthermore, a 2002 report said that Fakhet was preparing for “violent action” (see 2002). Farssaoui will later claim that he came across evidence that Fakhet was also an informant (see Shortly After October 2003). Fakhet will take over leadership of the group after Maymouni’s arrest and will lead most of them in carrying out the Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report concludes that at least six 9/11 hijackers received “substantial assistance” from associates in the US, though it’s “not known to what extent any of these contacts in the United States were aware of the plot.” These hijackers came into contact with at least 14 people who were investigated by the FBI before 9/11, and four of those investigations were active while the hijackers were present. But in June 2002, FBI Director Mueller testified: “While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that would have alerted law enforcement and doing nothing that exposed them to domestic coverage. As far as we know, they contacted no known terrorist sympathizers in the United States” (see June 18, 2002). CIA Director Tenet made similar comments at the same time, and another FBI official stated, “[T]here were no contacts with anybody we were looking at inside the United States.” These comments are untrue, because one FBI document from November 2001 uncovered by the Inquiry concludes that the six lead hijackers “maintained a web of contacts both in the United States and abroad. These associates, ranging in degrees of closeness, include friends and associates from universities and flight schools, former roommates, people they knew through mosques and religious activities, and employment contacts. Other contacts provided legal, logistical, or financial assistance, facilitated US entry and flight school enrollment, or were known from [al-Qaeda]-related activities or training.” (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) The declassified sections of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report show the hijackers have contact with:
bullet Mamoun Darkazanli, investigated several times starting in 1993 (see 1993; Late 1998); the CIA makes repeated efforts to turn him into an informer (see December 1999).
bullet Mohammed Haydar Zammar, investigated by Germany since at least 1997 (see 1996), the Germans periodically inform the CIA what they learn.
bullet Osama Basnan, US intelligence is informed of his connections to Islamic militants several times in early 1990s but fails to investigate (see April 1998).
bullet Omar al-Bayoumi, investigated in San Diego from 1998-1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).
bullet Anwar al-Awlaki, investigated in San Diego from 1999-2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
bullet Osama “Sam” Mustafa, owner of a San Diego gas station, and investigated beginning in 1991 (see Autumn 2000).
bullet Ed Salamah, manager of the same gas station, and an uncooperative witness in 2000 (see Autumn 2000).
bullet An unnamed friend of Hani Hanjour, whom the FBI tries to investigate in 2001.
bullet An unnamed associate of Marwan Alshehhi, investigated beginning in 1999.
bullet Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who had contact with Basnan, al-Bayoumi, al-Awlaki, Mustafa, and Salamah, “maintained a number of other contacts in the local Islamic community during their time in San Diego, some of whom were also known to the FBI through counterterrorist inquiries and investigations,” but details of these individuals and possible others are still classified. (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) None of the above people have been arrested or even publicly charged with any crime associated with terrorism, although Zammar is in prison in Syria.

Abdelghani Mzoudi, charged by the German government in assisting the 9/11 plot, is released from custody, pending completion of his trial. Mzoudi is released on bail following evidence submitted by Germany’s federal criminal office of secret testimony from an unnamed informant who says that Mzoudi was not involved with the planning for the attacks. The presiding judge in the case identifies captured al-Qaeda operative Ramzi bin al-Shibh as the likely source of the testimony. (Harding 12/12/2003; BBC 1/21/2004; Schwartz 1/22/2004; Crewdson and Simpson 1/22/2004) Presumably, this information comes from the US government. However, US authorities have repeatedly rejected German attempts to have bin al-Shibh appear in court for his testimony to be examined. (Moulson 10/23/2003; Agence France-Presse 1/22/2004) Mzoudi will be acquitted in February 2004 and his acquittal will be upheld in 2005 as the US continues to refuse access to bin al-Shibh (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005).

Mzoudi in an airport in Hanover, Germany, on June 21, 2005 as he returns to Morocco.Mzoudi in an airport in Hanover, Germany, on June 21, 2005 as he returns to Morocco. [Source: Associated Press]Abdelghani Mzoudi is acquitted of involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Mzoudi is known to have been a friend and housemate of some of the 9/11 hijackers. A German judge tells Mzoudi, “You were acquitted not because the court is convinced of your innocence but because the evidence was not enough to convict you.” Mzoudi’s acquittal became likely after Germany received secret testimony from the US government that asserted Mzoudi was not part of the plot (see December 11, 2003). But the information apparently came from the interrogation of US prisoner Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and since the US would not allow Mzoudi’s defense to cross-examine bin al-Shibh, Mzoudi was released. (Connolly 2/6/2004) Later in the year, Mzoudi acquittal is appealed to a higher court. Kay Nehm, Germany’s top federal prosecutor, again appeals to the US State Department to release interrogation records of bin al-Shibh to the court. However, the US still refuses to release the evidence, and a list of questions the court gives to the US for bin al-Shibh to answer are never answered. (Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg) 7/30/2004) On June 8, 2005, Mzoudi’s acquittal is upheld. Nehm calls the US’s government’s behavior “incomprehensible.” (Reuters 6/9/2005) After the verdict, German authorities maintain that he is still a threat and give him two weeks to leave the country. He quickly moves back to his home country of Morocco, where he now lives. (Deutsche Welle (Bonn) 6/26/2005)

Amer el-Azizi, a leading al-Qaeda operative, is thought to re-enter Spain to activate a cell that carries out train bombings in Madrid in 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004), as he is seen by witnesses in Madrid after the attacks. (Rotella 4/29/2004) A senior Spanish investigator will say in 2004, “There are people who have seen el-Azizi here in Spain after the attacks. It looks like he came back and may have directed the others. If he was here, his background would make it likely that he was the top guy. We have reliable witness accounts that he was here in significant places connected to the plot. The idea of el-Azizi as a leader has become more solid.” (Rotella 4/14/2004) His fingerprints are found in a safe house first used by the bombers in 2002. A Spanish investigator will comment, “El-Azizi was the brains, he was the link between the [bombers and the rest of al-Qaeda.” (Irujo 2005, pp. 218; Vidino 2006, pp. 320-321) El-Azizi was arrested in Turkey in 2000 with several of the 2004 Madrid bombers, but they were released for an unspecified reason (see October 10, 2000). Spanish intelligence also frustrated his arrest after 9/11 (see Shortly After November 21, 2001).

Multiple bombs destroyed this train in Madrid, Spain.Multiple bombs destroyed this train in Madrid, Spain. [Source: Rafa Roa/ Cover/ Corbis] (click image to enlarge)At about 7:40 a.m., four trains are bombed in Madrid, Spain, killing 191 people and injuring about 1,800 more. These are not suicide bombings, but were set by cell phone timers. Basque separatists are initially blamed, but evidence later points to people loosely associated with al-Qaeda. It will later be reported that 34 out of the 40 main people suspected or arrested for involvement in the bombings were under surveillance in Spain prior to the bombings (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004). Most of the bombers had never been to any training camps. In 2006, Spanish investigators will announce that the bombings were inspired by al-Qaeda, but not ordered or funded by al-Qaeda’s leadership. Specifically, the bombers are said to have been inspired by a speech allegedly given by Osama bin Laden in October 2003 (see October 19, 2003). (Wright 7/26/2004; Associated Press 3/9/2006) However, there will also be evidence against this that will not be refuted. For instance, the investigators will claim that all the key participants are either dead or in jail, but a number of them remain free overseas. For example, Amer el-Azizi is implicated in the Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004), and he has links to well-known al-Qaeda figures such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see (November 2001)), Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see Before July 8, 2001), and Zacarias Moussaoui (see Before August 16, 2001). In late 2002 or early 2003, el-Azizi is said to have met with Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, one of the key bombers, to discuss a bombing. He reportedly gave Fakhet permission to stage a bombing in the name of al-Qaeda, but it is unclear if he gave any funding or other assistance. (Giles 4/10/2004; Wright 7/26/2004) There are suggestions that el-Azizi was protected by Spanish intelligence (see Shortly After November 21, 2001), so the government may not be eager to highlight his involvement. Fakhet, considered one of the three masterminds of the bombings, may have been a government informant (see Shortly After October 2003). Many of the other plotters also appear to have been informants, and almost all the plotters were under surveillance before the bombings (see Shortly Before March 11, 2004). Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will say later in the month: “If we catch [bin Laden] this summer, which I expect, it’s two years too late. Because during those two years when forces were diverted to Iraq… al-Qaeda has metamorphosized into a hydra-headed organization with cells that are operating autonomously like the cells that operated in Madrid recently.” (Moniz and Komarow 3/28/2004) It will be noted that the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US and the Madrid train bombings are separated by a total of 911 days. (Wolk 3/19/2004; O'Reilly 4/22/2005)

The 9/11 Commission releases a new report on how the 9/11 plot developed. Most of their information appears to come from interrogations of prisoners Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. In this account, the idea for the attacks appears to have originated with KSM. In mid-1996, he met bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan. He presented several ideas for attacking the US, including a version of the 9/11 plot using ten planes (presumably an update of Operation Bojinka’s second phase plot (see February-Early May 1995)). Bin Laden does not commit himself. In 1999, bin Laden approves a scaled-back version of the idea, and provides four operatives to carry it out: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khallad bin Attash, and Abu Bara al Taizi. Attash and al Taizi drop out when they fail to get US visas. Alhazmi and Almihdhar prove to be incompetent pilots, but the recruitment of Mohamed Atta and the others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell solves that problem. Bin Laden wants the attacks to take place between May and July 2001, but the attacks are ultimately delayed until September. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) However, information such as these accounts resulting from prisoner interrogations is seriously doubted by some experts, because it appears they only began cooperating after being coerced or tortured. For instance, it is said that KSM was “waterboarded,” a technique in which his head is pushed under water until he nearly drowns. Information gained under such duress often is unreliable. Additionally, there is a serious risk that the prisoners might try to intentionally deceive. (Shenon and Marquis 6/17/2004) For instance, one CIA report of his interrogations is called, “Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s Threat Reporting—Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies.” (McDermott 6/23/2004) The Commission itself expresses worry that KSM could be trying to exaggerate the role of bin Laden in the plot to boost bin Laden’s reputation in the Muslim world. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) Most of what these prisoners have said is uncorroborated from other sources. (New York Times 6/17/2004) In 2007, it will be alleged that as much as 90 percent of KSM’s interrogation could be inaccurate, and that he has recanted some of his confessions (see August 6, 2007).

Mamoun Darkazanli, a German-Syrian businessman who associated with 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah and is suspected of helping the 9/11 plot (see October 9, 1999 and Spring 2000), is released in Germany. He had been arrested the previous year (see October 14, 2004) and Spanish authorities had requested he be deported to Spain, where he had been indicted in terrorism charges. However, Germany’s highest court rules that his arrest warrant is invalid because it violates a German law prohibiting the extradition of its own citizens. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries will call the ruling by the federal constitutional court “a blow for the government in its efforts and fight against terrorism.” Germany will amend its legislation and the Spanish will try again, but this second attempt to extradite Darkazanli will also be unsuccessful (see Late April 2007). (BBC 7/18/2005)

Mounir El Motassadeq is convicted in Germany of belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced to seven years in prison. However, he is acquitted of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He had previously been convicted of such involvement (see February 18, 2003), only to have the ruling overturned later (see March 3, 2004). The verdict was overturned when a judge ruled he was unfairly denied testimony for al-Qaeda suspects in US custody such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh. For the retrial, the US provided summaries from the interrogation of bin al-Shibh and other suspects, but did not make full reports available to the court or allow the prisoners to appear in person for cross-examination. The judge presiding over the retrial criticized the US for failing to give more evidence, saying, “How are we supposed to do justice to our task when important documents are withheld from us?” (Tiemann 8/19/2005) A former roommate of El Motassadeq testified that Mohamed Atta and bin al-Shibh regularly visited El Motassadeq, and he once overheard him say: “We are going to something big. He said, ‘The Jews will burn; we will dance on their graves.’” (Rising 6/5/2005) However, a 9/11 Commission investigator gave testimony that was very damaging to the prosecution’s argument that the Hamburg cell had a significant role in preparing the plot while in Germany (see March 8, 2005).

A Spanish court sentences a number of people to prison for connections to al-Qaeda. The main defendant, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, is convicted of leading an al-Qaeda cell in Madrid and conspiring to commit the 9/11 attacks by hosting a meeting in Spain in July 2001 attended by Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and others (see July 8-19, 2001). He is sentenced to 27 years in prison. (McLean 9/27/2005) However, in 2006, Spain’s supreme court will overturn his 9/11 conspiracy conviction, after prosecutors reverse themselves and ask that the conviction be dismissed. One of the reasons for the dismissal is that the US, which possesses evidence supporting the convictions, is reluctant to provide it (see Mid-2002-June 1, 2006). This will leave Zacarias Moussaoui the only person in the world jailed for a role in the 9/11 attacks. Yarkas will still have to serve a 12-year sentence for leading an al-Qaeda cell. (Naughton 6/1/2006) Seventeen men besides Yarkas, mostly Syrians, are also found guilty and are given sentences of six to eleven years. One of these is Tayseer Allouni, a correspondent for the Al Jazeera satellite network. He is convicted of giving $4,500 to a family of Syrian exiles in Afghanistan. The prosecutor alleged the family were al-Qaeda operatives, while Allouni argued he gave the money for humanitarian reasons. Two others, a Moroccan named Driss Chebli and a Syrian named Ghasoub al-Abrash Ghalyoun, were acquitted of being involved in the 9/11 plot, but Chebli was convicted of collaborating with a terrorist group. Ghalyoun was accused of videotaping the World Trade Center and other American landmarks in 1997 for the 9/11 plotters, but he claimed he was just a tourist (see 1998). (McLean 9/27/2005; Green 9/27/2005; Crawford 9/27/2005)

Mohammed Haydar Zammar, an alleged member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg, Germany, cell with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, is discovered in Syrian custody. It had been known that Zammar was arrested in late 2001 in Morocco and renditioned to Syria for likely torture and interrogation (see October 27-November 2001 and December 2001). However, his imprisonment had never been officially admitted by the Syrian government and his exact location was unknown. But this month, a European Union official monitoring trials in Damascus, Syria, sees Zammar in a state security court and notifies the German Embassy. According to Guel Pinar, Zammar’s lawyer in Germany, if it had not been for the chance encounter, Zammar might have remained out of sight forever. “No one in the world would have known,” she will say. (Whitlock 2/5/2007) Zammar has been secretly held without trial or charge for five years, but shortly after the sighting, he will be tried and sentenced (see February 11, 2007).

Mounir El Motassadeq, a former associate of three of the 9/11 hijackers, is convicted of assisting the 9/11 attacks. The conviction is handed down by a federal appeals court in Germany, where El Motassadeq had known the hijackers. El Motassadeq had previously been convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization (see August 19, 2005), but was acquitted on similar charges of assisting the 9/11 attacks (see March 3, 2004). However, the appeals court decides this decision was wrong and that El Motassadeq should be convicted for being an accessory to the murders of the 246 people killed on the airliners on 9/11, although sentence should be imposed by a lower court. El Motassadeq admits having trained in Afghanistan and having known three of the hijackers—Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah—but says he knew nothing of their plans. However, the court finds he did know they intended to crash airliners and assisted the hijackers by transferring money to them and making it seem like they were still attending university in Germany. As El Motassadeq did not know the planned targets, he cannot be convicted of assisting the murders of the thousands of people who died in the World Trade Center and Pentagon. (Landler 1/9/2007; Associated Press 1/9/2007) El Motassadeq will later be sentenced to 15 years in jail for the offense (see January 8, 2007).

Some time this year, Said Bahaji, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany along with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, speaks to his mother on the telephone, the New York Times will report in 2009. Anneliese Bahaji, Bahaji’s mother living in Germany, will tell the Times that in 2007, Bahaji “said he just wanted to call and say he’s still alive.” She will mention that he does not say where he is, and she does not hear from him afterwards. In October 2009, there will be renewed interest in Bahaji after his German passport is found in the tribal region of Pakistan (see Late October 2009). Bahaji’s mother will also mention that Said has a Moroccan passport, and he may travel using that. (Mekhennet and Tavernise 10/30/2009) Bahaji is wanted in Spain and Germany on terrorism charges (see September 21, 2001). However, the US has never put a bounty on him, or even put him on their most wanted lists, despite reports that he had a key role in supporting the 9/11 attacks. (CNN 10/30/2009)

Mounir El Motassadeq, a former associate of three of the 9/11 hijackers, is sentenced to 15 years in prison in Germany. El Motassadeq was convicted of assisting the 9/11 attacks in November (see November 2006) and is currently serving a seven-year sentence for being a member of a terrorist organization (see August 19, 2005). The 15-year sentence is the maximum possible, as the conviction was only as an accessory to the deaths of the 246 people who died on the airliners. As El Motassadeq has already served three years, this period will be deducted from the sentence. Defense lawyers say they will appeal the conviction, and that the case may go all the way to the European Court of Justice. (Landler 1/9/2007; Associated Press 1/9/2007)

Mohammed Haydar Zammar in 2001.Mohammed Haydar Zammar in 2001. [Source: Knut Muller / Der Spiegel]Mohammed Haydar Zammar, an alleged member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg, Germany, cell with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, is given a 12-year prison sentence in Syria. It had been known that Zammar was arrested in late 2001 in Morocco and renditioned to Syria for likely torture and interrogation (see October 27-November 2001 and December 2001), but his exact location was not confirmed until a European Union official spotted him in Syrian custody in October 2006 (see October 2006). It has been reported that Zammar had extensive al-Qaeda connections and a probable role in the 9/11 plot, but he was not charged for any of that, and instead was accused of being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. This group is banned in Syria, and membership in it is a crime that is punishable by death. The court initially sentences Zammar to life imprisonment but commutes his sentence to 12 years. Der Spiegel comments, “Zammar’s German citizenship and the fact that German diplomats were closely monitoring the trial may have gone some way toward saving him from the gallows.” (Der Spiegel (Hamburg) 2/12/2007)

Germany rejects a fresh bid from Spain to extradite Mamoun Darkazanli, a German-Syrian businessman who associated with 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah and is suspected of helping the 9/11 plot (see October 9, 1999 and Spring 2000). Germany had rejected a previous extradition request (see July 18, 2005), but German law had been amended and the Spanish, who had indicted Darkazanli on terrorism charges, tried again. The justice ministry in Hamburg was apparently in favor of extradition, but the move was blocked by the federal justice ministry, which said Germany had already investigated Darkazanli and found no grounds to prosecute him. Apparently, they could not find evidence that he supported the 9/11 plot and being a member of al-Qaeda only became illegal in Germany in 2002, so he cannot be extradited. It appears no action can now be taken against Darkazanli, and a spokesman for the justice department in the city-state of Hamburg says, “We now assume that the Darkazanli case is closed for us.” (EUbusiness(.com) 4/30/2007; Agence France-Presse 4/30/2007)

Shahab Dashti, left, in a 2009 militant propaganda video.Shahab Dashti, left, in a 2009 militant propaganda video. [Source: Public domain via Der Spiegel]Naamen Meziche, an apparent member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, leaves Germany to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany, has been under investigation since shortly after 9/11 for his links to some of the 9/11 plotters and al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui (see September 5, 2001 and Shortly After September 11, 2001-March 5, 2009). German intelligence has investigated him for years, but has never discovered enough evidence to charge him with any crime (see Shortly After September 11, 2001-March 5, 2009). It is unclear if he is still being monitored when he now leaves Germany. Before leaving, he told his wife that he was going on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. He leaves with a group of Islamist militants, including Ahmad Sidiqi and Shahab Dashti, whom he will train with in Pakistan. (Stark and Gebauer 10/11/2010) Meziche will be killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010).

Said Bahaji’s passport recovered in 2009.Said Bahaji’s passport recovered in 2009. [Source: BBC]Pakistani soldiers conducting a security sweep of Taliban strongholds in Pakistan’s tribal region find a passport belonging to Said Bahaji, a member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg cell. Bahaji was believed to be close to Mohamed Atta and the other 9/11 hijackers in the cell. The passport is found in a mud compound in Sherawangi village, in South Waziristan, which is said to be a local Taliban command and control base. Other documents are found showing the presence of some other militants from European countries in the area. It is unclear if Bahaji was in the village, or if just his passport was. The passport is shown to journalists on October 29, 2009, and its discovery is widely reported. Bahaji is a German citizen, and his German passport was issued on August 3, 2001. Stamps show that he obtained a Pakistani tourist visa one day later, and arrived in Pakistan on September 4, 2001. Bahaji went to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan shortly thereafter (see Shortly After September 11, 2001), and investigators believe he has generally remained in Afghanistan or Pakistan ever since. He was last heard of in 2007, when he called his mother in Germany (see 2007). (Walsh, Burke, and Tremlett 10/29/2009; Hussain 10/30/2009)
Political Implications of Passport Find - The Guardian comments that if authentic, the passport provides “stark proof of what Western allies have insisted upon for years, but which Pakistani officials have only recently accepted - that the tribal belt, particularly South and North Waziristan, is the de facto headquarters of al-Qaeda, and that Osama bin Laden is most likely hiding there.” The passport also is evidence that al-Qaeda and the Taliban are working together. (Walsh, Burke, and Tremlett 10/29/2009)
Bahaji Officially Wanted by Spain and Germany but Not US - Bahaji is wanted in Spain and Germany on terrorism charges (see September 21, 2001). According to CNN, “A US counterterrorism official said only that Bahaji is a senior propagandist for al-Qaeda who had ties to some of the September 11 hijackers and is very much of interest to the United States.” However, the US has never put a bounty on Bahaji, or even put him on their most wanted lists. (CNN 10/30/2009)
Timing of Passport Discovery Seems Suspicious, Authenticity Is Uncertain - The BBC comments, “The appearance of the passport raises a lot of questions - not least is it genuine? For now that is unclear.” The BBC also notes that the discovery of the passport comes just after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton harshly criticized Pakistan’s failure to find al-Qaeda figures hiding in the tribal region. (BBC 10/31/2009) Clinton said, “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they are, and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to. Maybe that’s the case. Maybe they’re not gettable. I don’t know.” (Walsh, Burke, and Tremlett 10/29/2009) One British analyst questions the “convenient” timing of the discovery after Clinton’s comments, and says the passport would need to be closely examined to make sure it is authentic. (BBC 10/31/2009)

Shahab Dashti holding a large sword in a 2009 militant propaganda video.Shahab Dashti holding a large sword in a 2009 militant propaganda video. [Source: Public domain via Der Spiegel]Two members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell before 9/11 allegedly have a reunion in Pakistan’s tribal region. In March 2009, three Islamist militants—Naamen Meziche, Ahmad Sidiqi, and Shahab Dashti—left their homes in Germany and went together to al-Qaeda linked training camps in Pakistan (see March 5, 2009). Meziche was an apparent member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, but the German government was never able to charge him with any crime despite investigating him for years (see Shortly After September 11, 2001-March 5, 2009). The three militants live in Mir Ali, a town in Pakistan’s tribal region controlled by tribes allied with al-Qaeda. Sidiqi will be arrested in early July 2010, and is held at the US military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. (Stark and Gebauer 10/11/2010)
Happy Reunion of Hamburg Cell Members - He will tell his interrogators that in May or June 2010, Said Bahaji visits Mir Ali. Bahaji is another known member of the Hamburg cell, and has been wanted by Germany since shortly after 9/11. Bahaji comes with his wife and children (apparently a new wife he met while on the run in Pakistan). According to Sidiqi, Bahaji and Meziche are happy to see each other again after many years. The two of them talk for hours until Bahaji leaves later that same day.
Story Is Based on Two Eyewitnesses - It is not known how trustworthy Sidiqi’s confession is, or how he is treated by US interrogators. German intelligence officials will be able to visit him in early October 2010, and he will tell them the same story about Bahaji. Sidiqi also reveals details of a plot to attack targets in Germany that he, Meziche, Dashti, and others were involved in. Rami Makanesi, a German of Syrian descent, will be arrested in Pakistan in June 2010 and quickly deported back to Germany. He also independently gives an account describing the same meeting between Meziche and Bahaji. Makanesi is sentenced to four years in prison. (Stark and Gebauer 10/11/2010; Stark 8/29/2011)
Significance - Der Spiegel will later comment that Sidiqi’s confession shows that “Bahaji is obviously still alive.… And he is apparently still involved with a group of radical Islamists in [Pakistan’s tribal] region.” Furthermore, “Even today, the German citizen is one of the most wanted people in the world.” However, the US government has still not put Bahaji on any most wanted lists. The reunion also strengthens evidence that Merziche was part of the Hamburg cell with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others. However, Merziche is not put on any public wanted list either. In October 2010, a US drone strike will kill Meziche, Dashti, and a third German militant known as Bunyamin E. (see October 5, 2010), but Bahaji survives. (Stark and Gebauer 10/11/2010)

The location of Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, allegedly is revealed by a captured German militant. After bin Laden is killed in May 2011 (see May 2, 2011), both the Washington Times and London Times will claim that a militant named Ahmed Siddiqui is captured in Afghanistan in July 2010, and quickly tells US interrogators that bin Laden is hiding in a compound in Abbottabad (although apparently he does not mention the exact location, just the town). Both articles will also claim that US intelligence tracks bin Laden’s courier Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed to bin Laden’s compound at nearly the exact same time (see July 2010 and August 1, 2010). The Washington Times will mention that different sources name Siddiqui or Ahmed as the key intelligence breakthrough. (Gertz 5/2/2011; Lamb 5/8/2011) In September 2010, Der Spiegel will report that the 36-year-old Siddiqui is arrested in early July by US forces in Afghanistan, and he confesses about attack plots in Germany and other countries. He is a German of Afghan descent, and is believed to be part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). He is thought to have gone to Pakistan and Afghanistan in early 2009. He attended the same mosque in Hamburg as some of the 9/11 hijackers such as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Siddiqui also has links to Mounir El Motassadeq, who was given a 15-year sentence in Germany for a role in the 9/11 attacks (see January 8, 2007). For instance, Siddiqui worked at the Hamburg airport like El Motassadeq did, drove El Motassadeq’s father to jail to visit El Motassadeq, and went on vacation with El Motassadeq’s family in Morocco in 2002. (Der Spiegel (Hamburg) 9/6/2010)

The Al-Quds mosque, which was attended by three 9/11 hijackers for several years (see Early 1996), is closed down. The mosque in Hamburg, Germany, has long been known as a gathering place for radical Islamists. In recent years, it changed its name to the Taiba mosque. Police raid the mosque and shut it down, ban the cultural society linked to it, and confiscate its assets and documents. However, there are no arrests. There was a long legal battle before the police were given permission to close the mosque. Der Spiegel comments: “Every Muslim visitor must have known that he was under close scrutiny from police authorities as soon as he set foot in the building. In fact, it proved quite helpful for the Hamburg intelligence service because all the city’s Islamists would congregate here.” However, not only was the mosque associated with the 9/11 attacks, but the imam at the mosque for most of the 1990s, Mohammed Fazazi, was convicted of involvement in the 2003 bombings in Casablanca, Morocco (see 1993-Late 2001 and May 16, 2003). Furthermore, in 2009, a group of 10 radical Islamists who had attended the mosque left Hamburg for Pakistan’s tribal region in an attempt to attend militant training camps (see March 5, 2009). Some were arrested and revealed they were part of a plot to attack targets in Europe, and they also linked up with members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell (see May 2010). One of them, Naamen Meziche, who will be killed in a US drone strike in 2010, is the son-in-law of Fazazi, the former imam at the mosque (see October 5, 2010). In recent years, the imam at the mosque has been Mamoun Darkazanli, who was linked to many in the al-Qaeda cell with the 9/11 hijackers, and was suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda well before 9/11 (see Late 1998 and October 9, 1999). Spain has filed a request for his extradition on terrorism charges, but Germany has refused to extradite him (see (see Late April 2007). (Hengst and Scheuermann 8/9/2010) Some German officials believe he is still involved in al-Qaeda, but he apparently is careful not to break any German laws (see November 11, 2010).

Rami Makanesi.Rami Makanesi. [Source: DAPD]In June 2010, Rami Makanesi, a German militant of Syrian descent, is arrested in Pakistan and quickly deported to Germany. He becomes a key source of information on recent al-Qaeda activity, and in return gets only a four-year sentence in Germany. In October 2010, he is shown photographs of al-Qaeda suspects, and he recognizes Said Bahaji in one of them. Bahaji is a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, and fled to Pakistan shortly before the 9/11 attacks (see September 3-5, 2001). He has been wanted in Germany ever since (see September 21, 2001). Makanesi reveals that he spoke to Bahaji in May 2010, in Pakistan’s tribal region. Makanesi says that Bahaji “now looks completely different. He has a long beard and longer hair.” Bahaji is not considered a high ranking al-Qaeda leader, but he is respected because he has been involved so long. Bahaji now works for As-Sahab, al-Qaeda’s propaganda and media effort. He is responsible for As-Sahab’s technical infrastructure. (Stark 8/29/2011)
Bahaji Still Not on Any US Wanted List - However, despite this news that Bahaji is not only still alive but continues to have an important al-Qaeda role, the US government has yet to publicly charge Bahaji or put him on any of their most wanted lists, nor has any bounty been announced for him. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/13/2011) Bahaji is not even on the FBI’s “Seeking Information—War on Terrorism” list. A person does not have to be formally charged to be on that list. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 6/5/2011)

A US drone strike kills some suspected militants in Pakistan tied to an alleged plot to strike Europe, including an apparent member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that was involved in the 9/11 attacks. The strike kills eight people in Pakistan’s tribal region. Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent and longtime German resident, is one of those killed. He had been under investigation since shortly after 9/11 for his connections to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh, al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui, and others, but the German government was never able to get enough evidence to charge him with any crime. In March 2009, Meziche joined a group of Islamist extremists traveling from Hamburg to Pakistan for military training (see March 5, 2009). Two other men from the group, Bunyamin E. and Shahab Dashti, are reportedly killed in the drone strike as well. (Crawford 10/16/2010)

Manfred Murck.Manfred Murck. [Source: DPA]Manfred Murck, the head of intelligence in Hamburg, Germany, expresses frustration that Mamoun Darkazanli is still not imprisoned. In an interview with CNN, Murck says, “We knew him even before 9/11… we still believe that he was, and maybe still is, a kind of representative of al-Qaeda in Hamburg.” Darkazanli was linked to many members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell that included a few of the 9/11 hijackers (see October 9, 1999), and he was suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda since the early 1990s (see 1993 and Late 1998), but the German government never developed enough evidence to charge him. He is wanted in Spain, but the German government has refused to extradite him (see Late April 2007). In recent years, Darkazanli became the imam to the Al-Quds mosque, the same mosque attended by Mohamed Atta and others involved in the 9/11 plot who knew Darkazanli. In March 2009, a group of young men who attended Al-Quds left Hamburg for training camps in Pakistan (see March 5, 2009). Some of them were later arrested and confessed to being involved in a plot to attack targets in Europe. German intelligence officials say that Darkazanli was closely tied to Ahmad Sidiqi and Naamen Meziche, two leaders of the group. (And Meziche appears to have been part of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell before 9/11, but he was never charged with any crime.) Murck believes Darkazanli inspired this latest group of militant recruits, but carefully did so in a way that did not break any laws. He says: “When it comes to the last speeches [Darkazanli] gave them, he told them, ‘Allah help to kill our enemies…’ so it was very general, it was not, ‘Let’s kill that one, or destroy that city.’ It was more a general cry for help to Allah to help the brothers against the enemies, but it was not enough for our police to open an investigation against him.” The Al-Quds mosque was shut down in August 2010 (see August 9, 2010), but German officials are worried that Darkazanli may start preaching at another mosque, which could start a new legal battle. (Robertson and Cruickshank 11/11/2010)


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