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Context of 'Late November-Early December 1999: Hamburg Cell Members Travel Monitored Route to Afghanistan'

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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. [Stern, 8/13/2003; Vanity Fair, 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).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) is aware that radical Muslims appear to be traveling through Turkey on their way to training in a third country, presumably Afghanistan. DGSE informer Omar Nasiri will later comment: “[T]he DGSE had noticed a lot of men were disappearing from France, men who were under surveillance. They would attend the radical mosques every day and then, suddenly, they were gone. They went to Turkey and disappeared. A few months later they would be back at the mosques in France, but no one knew where they had been in the meantime. The DGSE thought they were at the training camps.” [Nasiri, 2006, pp. 96] Turkish intelligence is also aware militants transit Turkey at this time and informs German intelligence (see 1996). Several of the 9/11 hijackers will also transit Turkey (see Late November-Early December 1999).

Entity Tags: Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, Omar Nasiri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ahmed Alghamdi.Ahmed Alghamdi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Under interrogation after 9/11, al-Qaeda manager Khallad bin Attash will indicate that some of the 9/11 hijackers try to get to the conflict in Chechnya from Turkey, but are not able to do so because the Turkey-Georgia border is closed. In Turkey, they stay in guesthouses in places such as Istanbul and Ankara. Turkish intelligence has been aware that militants often transit Turkey for some time, but there are no reports saying that the hijackers are monitored at this time (see 1996). The militants then decide to travel to Afghanistan and perhaps try to enter Chechnya again later. In this context bin Attash mentions the names of Saeed Alghamdi, Satam al Suqami, Waleed and Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed. Ahmed Alghamdi and Saeed Alghamdi also have documentation suggesting travel to a Russian republic. However, the reliability of evidence obtained during the interrogations of figures like bin Attash is questionable due to the unreliable methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 233] Some of the lead hijackers transit Turkey (see Late November-Early December 1999). There are also reports that some of the hijackers tell family and friends in Saudi Arabia that they intend to fight in Chechnya, and it appears that some, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, may actually see combat there (see 1996-December 2000).

Entity Tags: Waleed Alshehri, Khallad bin Attash, Turkish intelligence, Wail Alshehri, Satam Al Suqami, Saeed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Majed Moqed, Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alghamdi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta enters a lottery for permanent resident status in the US. The application is submitted over the Internet to the National Visa Service, a company that, for a $50 fee, helps individuals enter green card lotteries for permanent resident status in the US. Atta submits another lottery application in November, but both applications are unsuccessful. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 19-20 pdf file] This may indicate that Atta is already involved in the 9/11 plot in some way prior to December 1999, when the 9/11 Commission suggests he joins the plot (see Late November-Early December 1999). He appears to have traveled to Afghanistan (see Late 1997-Early 1998) and has discussed studying in the US with his parents (see October 1999). In addition, he and fellow Hamburg cell member Marwan Alshehhi may have already started taking flying lessons (see April 1999 and October 1999).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, 9/11 Commission, National Visa Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000.Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000. [Source: London Times]Hamburg cell members Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and possibly Said Bahaji travel to Afghanistan via Turkey and Karachi, Pakistan. They travel along a route often used by one of their associates, al-Qaeda recruiter Mohammed Haydar Zammar, to send potential operatives to Afghanistan for training. Turkish intelligence is aware of the route and informed German intelligence of it in 1996, leading to an investigation of Zammar (see 1996). However, it is unclear whether German or Turkish intelligence register the Hamburg cell members’ travel and how and whether they disseminate and act on this information. Jarrah is reportedly noticed by an intelligence service in the United Arab Emirates on his return journey from Afghanistan (see January 30, 2000). [New York Times, 9/10/2002; CBS News, 10/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 167; McDermott, 2005, pp. 89]

Entity Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Turkish intelligence, Said Bahaji, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan Alshehhi, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Future 9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah is briefly detained and questioned at the Dubai airport (see January 30-31, 2000), and some reports will suggest this is because he is already on a US watch list. It is not known when he may have been put on a watch list or why. The only information about this will come from conflicting accounts as to why Jarrah is stopped and questioned by immigration officials for several hours in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on January 30.
Did the US Tell the UAE to Stop Jarrah? - According to one version, UAE officials claim Jarrah is stopped based on a tip-off from the US. A UAE source will tell author Jane Corbin: “It was at the request of the Americans and it was specifically because of Jarrah’s links with Islamic extremists, his contacts with terrorist organizations. That was the extent of what we were told.” [Corbin, 2003] In 2002, CNN will also report that Jarrah is stopped because he is on a US watch list. It claims this is sourced not only from UAE sources, but from other governments in the Middle East and Europe. However, US officials will claim no such tip-off was ever given. [CNN, 8/1/2002]
Passport and Religious Material Version - Other versions of the story will claim that Jarrah first raises suspicion because of an overlay of the Koran in his passport and because he is carrying religious tapes and books. This is what the 9/11 Commission will claim. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 496] Other accounts, such as one in Vanity Fair in late 2004, will support this version. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
UAE Has Existing Program to Track Militants for the CIA - There may be a middle version of sorts, that Jarrah may be stopped because the CIA wants people with a profile just like his to be stopped. According to CNN: “The questioning of Jarrah in Dubai fits the pattern of a CIA operation described to CNN by UAE and European sources. Those sources say that in 1999, the CIA began an operation to track suspected al-Qaeda operatives, as they transited there. One of those sources provided [a] drawing showing the airport layout and describes how people wanted for questioning were intercepted, most often at a transit desk. As was the case with Ziad Jarrah, CNN sources say UAE officials were, often, told in advance by American officials who was coming in and whom they wanted questioned.” [CNN, 8/1/2002] It will also be reported that in the summer of 1999, the CIA asked immigration officials all over the region to question anyone who may have been returning from training camps in Afghanistan, and Jarrah fits that profile (see Summer 1999). [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, United Arab Emirates, 9/11 Commission, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta returns to Germany from Pakistan using the same monitored route as he traveled on the outward journey (see Late November-Early December 1999). He flies from Karachi to Istanbul, Turkey, where he changes planes for Hamburg. Turkish intelligence discovered that militants use this route to travel between Europe and training camps in Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and alerted Germany to it at that time, causing Germany to launch an investigation into one of Atta’s associates (see 1996). However, it is not known whether the intelligence agencies register Atta’s travel at this time. [Stern, 8/13/2003] Fellow alleged 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah appears to be noticed on his way back to Germany from Afghanistan (see January 30, 2000) and another member of the cell, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, may be monitored in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at this time (see January 5-8, 2000).

Entity Tags: Turkish intelligence, Mohamed Atta, German intelligence community

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Said Bahaji in 1995.Said Bahaji in 1995. [Source: Public domain]German intelligence places two members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, Mounir El Motassadeq and Said Bahaji, on a German watch list. The two men, associates of future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, had come to the Germans’ attention because of their association with al-Qaeda recruiter Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who they meet regularly. The watchlisting means that their arrivals and departures to and from Germany will be reported immediately. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is also placed on a watch list at some point before 9/11 (see Before September 11, 2001). El Motassadeq was first investigated by German authorities in 1998 (see August 29, 1998). Bahaji was the target of a surveillance investigation starting in 1998 as well (see (Late 1998)). Bahaji may have recently traveled to Afghanistan with some associates using a route monitored by European intelligence agencies (see Late November-Early December 1999).
El Motassadeq's Travels Will Be Noticed Three Times - Because he is watchlisted, German intelligence will keep track when El Motassadeq goes to Denmark twice, and when he flies to Istanbul on his way to a training camp in Afghanistan (see May 22, 2000). [New York Times, 1/18/2003]
Importance of Watchlisting - Author Terry McDermott will later comment about the watchlisting of El Motassadeq: “In Germany, this was not a casual event. In order to be placed on such lists, intelligence agencies had to go to great lengths to demonstrate to the Bundestag, the German parliament, that the person under question was of potential danger to the state. Being placed on the list indicated that El Motassadeq had been under investigation for some time. In that he was an integral part of the group that included [Atta], [Ramzi bin al-Shibh], and Alshehhi, this at the least implies that they were being watched too.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 297]

Entity Tags: Terry McDermott, Said Bahaji, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mounir El Motassadeq, Marwan Alshehhi, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mounir El Motassadeq leaves Germany for Afghanistan and his travel is immediately reported to the German authorities because he is on a watch list (see March 2000). El Motassadeq flies from Hamburg to Karachi, Pakistan, via Istanbul. At least two of the future 9/11 hijackers have previously traveled this route to Afghanistan (see Late November-Early December 1999). Although Turkish intelligence is aware that radicals from Germany travel to Afghanistan via Turkey, it is unclear whether they pick up the travel by El Motassadeq (see 1996). There are two versions of German intelligence’s reaction to this trip. An early 2003 article in Der Speigel will say that the intelligence report only gives El Motassadeq’s destination as Istanbul, so there are no consequences for him. However, a later article in Stern magazine will say, “Naturally, the officials know that Istanbul is not his real destination but only the usual stopover on his way to Afghanistan, to the camps of Osama bin Laden.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003; Stern, 8/13/2003] Indeed, El Motassadeq goes to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan (see May 22 to August 2000).

Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Turkish intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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