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Context of 'October 27-November 2001: Al-Qaeda Hamburg Cell Member Zammar Arrested in Morocco'

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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; Time, 7/1/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, German intelligence community

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Washington Post, 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 [Daily Telegraph, 6/20/2002; Christian Science Monitor, 7/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Syria, Germany, Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

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. [Daily Telegraph, 6/20/2002; Washington Post, 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.” [Washington Post, 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]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 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. [Los Angeles Times, 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.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005]

Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Shu’bat al-Mukhabarat al-‘Askariyya, Osama bin Laden, Ziad Jarrah, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mounir El Motassadeq, Bundeskriminalamt Germany, Al-Qaeda, Assef Shawkat, Bashar Assad, Abdelghani Mzoudi, Mohamed Atta, Bundesnachrichtendienst, Marwan Alshehhi, Mamoun Darkazanli, Faisal Sammak, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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. [Washington Post, 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).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Guel Pinar

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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