Profile: Said Bahaji
a.k.a. Abu Zuhair
Said Bahaji was a participant or observer in the following events:
Al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) makes frequent visits to Hamburg, Germany, and sometimes attends the Hamburg mosque that is attended by a few of the future 9/11 hijackers. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002] The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later say that Salim was Osama bin Laden’s “right hand man.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ] Starting in 1995, Salim makes frequent visits to Germany. Some of these trips are to Hamburg. Salim has links to Mamoun Darkazanli, who lives in Hamburg and has signing powers over Salim’s bank account. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002] Salim first opens a bank account in Hamburg with Darkazanli in 1995. [Boston Globe, 10/6/2001] Darkazanli is also friends with Mohammed Haydar Zammar. Salim has links to Zammar as well. The nature of these links is unclear, but US and German intelligence will later investigate Zammar due to his links with Salim (see Shortly After September 16, 1998). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 12/12/2005] Zammar and Darkazanli both regularly attend the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. When Salim visits Hamburg, he attends the Al-Quds mosque as well. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002] Beginning in early 1996, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other members of his future al-Qaeda Hamburg cell begin regularly attending the Al-Quds mosque, with different members joining at different times (see Early 1996). The mosque holds about 150 people for Friday prayers. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 1-5] It is not known if Salim ever meets with Atta or any other members of the Hamburg cell. But Zammar, at least, is considered part of the cell, and he or Darkazanli could have introduced Salim to some of the others. One key member of the cell, Said Bahaji, is frequently seen at the Al-Quds mosque with Zammar and Darkazanli. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 72] On September 16, 1998, Salim is arrested in Munich, Germany, ending any link he might have had to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell (see September 16, 1998). It is not known if US or German investigators ever learn of the link between Salim and the Al-Quds mosque before 9/11.
The Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. [Source: Knut Muller]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell begin regularly attending the Al-Quds mosque. Atta becomes a well-known figure both there and at other mosques in the city. He grows a beard at this time, which some commentators interpret as a sign of greater religious devotion. The mosque is home to numerous radicals. For example, the imam, Mohammed Fazazi, advocates killing non-believers and encourages his followers to embrace martyrdom (see 1993-Late 2001 and Early 2001).
Atta Teaches Classes at Al-Quds - After a time, Atta begins to teach classes at the mosque. He is stern with his students and criticizes them for wearing their hair in ponytails and gold chains around their necks, as well as for listening to music, which he says is a product of the devil. If a woman shows up, her father is informed she is not welcome. This is one of the reasons that, of the 80 students that start the classes, only a handful are left at the end.
Other Hijackers and Cell Members Attend Al-Quds - One of Atta’s associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, also teaches classes at the mosque. 9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah start attending the mosque at different times and possibly first meet Atta there. Other mosque attendees who interact with the future hijackers at the mosque include Said Bahaji, and al-Qaeda operatives Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar.
Is the Mosque Monitored? - According to author Terry McDermott, German investigators notice Bahaji meeting frequently with Darkazanli and Zammar at the mosque, so they presumably have a source inside it. [PBS Frontline, 1/2002; Burke, 2004, pp. 242; McDermott, 2005, pp. 1-5, 34-37, 72] The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will later report that there probably is an informer working for the LfV, the Hamburg state intelligence agency, inside the mosque by 1999. Somehow, the LfV is very knowledgeable about Atta and some his associates, and their behavior inside the mosque (see (April 1, 1999)). [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] Radical imam Fazazi will continue to preach at the mosque until late 2001 (see Mid-September-Late 2001).
Mounir El Motassadeq. [Source: Associated Press]A German inquiry into Mounir El Motassadeq, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, begins by this date. Although Germany will not reveal details, documents show that by August 1998, El Motassadeq is under surveillance. “The trail soon [leads] to most of the main [Hamburg] participants” in 9/11. Surveillance records El Motassadeq and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who had already been identified by police as a suspected extremist, as they meet at the Hamburg home of Said Bahaji on August 29, 1998. Files show that investigators are aware of who Bahaji is by this time.(Bahaji will soon move into an apartment with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and other al-Qaeda members (see November 1, 1998-February 2001.) German police monitor several other meetings between El Motassadeq and Zammar in the following months. [New York Times, 1/18/2003] El Motassadeq will later be sentenced to 15 years in prison for membership in al-Qaeda (see August 19, 2005).
The Marienstrasse building. [Source: Associated Press]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, al-Qaeda operatives Said Bahaji and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and others in the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany, and some of them stay there until February 2001. Investigators will later believe this move marks the formation of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2002; New York Times, 9/10/2002] Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including, at times, 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. Alshehhi moves out after the first month; it is unclear why. [New York Times, 9/15/2001] During the 28 months Atta’s name is on the apartment lease, 29 Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address.
Surveillance of Bahaji - From the very beginning, the apartment is under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Bahaji. [Washington Post, 10/23/2001] The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji is directly monitored for at least part of 1998, but German officials will not disclose when the probe began or ends. This investigation is dropped for lack of evidence (see (Late 1998)). [Associated Press, 6/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji moves out in July 1999 and gets married a few months later (see October 9, 1999). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
Surveillance of El Motassadeq - German intelligence monitors the apartment off and on for months, and wiretaps Mounir El Motassadeq, an associate of the apartment-mates who will later be convicted for assisting the 9/11 plot, but apparently it does not find any indication of suspicious activity (see August 29, 1998). [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002]
Surveillance of Zammar - Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, does not live at the apartment, but he is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 259-60; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] He even lives in the apartment for a time in February 1999 (see February 1999). Zammar is the focus of an investigation that began in 1997 and continues until early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). Interest in monitoring him increases in late 1998 (see October 2, 1998).
Surveillance of Atta - The CIA also allegedly starts monitoring Atta in early 2000 while he is living at the apartment, and does not tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). Atta leaves Germany to live in the US in June 2000 (see June 3, 2000).
No Direct German Surveillance of the Apartment? - Yet, even though people like Zammar who frequently phone and visit the apartment are monitored, German officials will later claim that the apartment itself is never bugged. An unnamed senior German security official will later say that some surveillance of associated people gives “the impression that the people living there were fanatical believers. At the BfV [Germany’s domestic intelligence agency], we had to decide whether to ask permission to place a wiretap on the line at 54 Marienstrasse itself. We discussed this every day.” But he will claim that they ultimately decide they will not be able to get legal permission for a wiretap because there is no evidence that the apartment’s occupants are breaking any laws. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This claim that the apartment was not directly monitored seems contradicted by reports that Bahaji was the target of a surveillance investigation when he was living in the Marienstrasse apartment in late 1998 (see (Late 1998)).
What Would More Surveillance Have Uncovered? - It will later be clear that investigators could have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, one visitor will recall Atta and others discussing attacking the US. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999 and comes to the apartment. However, although there is a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998, the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him (see 1999). [Newsweek, 9/4/2002; New York Times, 11/4/2002] 9/11 Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays at the apartment “at times.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Remarkably, shortly after 9/11, the German government will claim it knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and nothing directed it towards the Marienstrasse apartment. [Daily Telegraph, 11/24/2001]
Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Said Bahaji, Marwan Alshehhi, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Zakariya Essabar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
German intelligence investigates al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji. The investigation stems from an investigation into cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar, which started in 1997 (see March 1997-Early 2000). Many contacts are noticed between Zammar and Bahaji. According to the Los Angeles Times: “In part because of the acquaintance, German police in 1998 performed what they describe as limited surveillance on Bahaji. Bahaji at the time was living with [future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed] Atta and [hijacker associate Ramzi] bin al-Shibh. Nothing came of the surveillance and it was discontinued.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] However, German officials will not say when exactly the surveillance stops. [Associated Press, 6/22/2002] Bahaji lives with Atta and bin al-Shibh at the Marienstrasse apartment starting in November 1998 (see November 1, 1998-February 2001), so the surveillance of him probably starts in late 1998. However, it is likely that interest in and possibly surveillance of Bahaji continues after this time. Bahaji will be watchlisted in March 2000 (see March 2000). Author Terry McDermott will later comment about the difficulty of being put on a watch list: “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.” McDermott will further note that being placed on this list would be an indication the person has been under surveillance for a long time. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 297]
Monitored al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar temporarily lives with future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and 9/11 hijacker associates Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. They live in a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). This is according to a September 2001 memo from the BfV (Germany’s domestic intelligence agency), so it may come from surveillance conducted before 9/11. It is not known why Zammar lives here at this time, since he has his own wife and family in Hamburg; nor is it known how many days he stays at the apartment. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Zammar is under surveillance by the BfV at this time (see March 1997-Early 2000), and he is likely under surveillance by the CIA as well (see Shortly After September 16, 1998 and Summer 1999).
Said Bahaji, computer expert for the Hamburg cell. [Source: German Bavarian Police]German intelligence monitors a phone call in which the names of key members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell are mentioned. Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s full name and telephone number are even mentioned. German domestic intelligence (BfV) has been monitoring al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s telephone (see March 1997-Early 2000). On this day, Zammar is not home, but his parents speak to each other on the phone and are trying to figure out where he is. One of them suggests that Zammar is at a meeting with “Mohamed, Ramzi, and Said,” and can be reached at the phone number of the Marienstrasse apartment where all three of them live. This refers to cell members Atta, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and Said Bahaji. “Mounir”—cell member Mounir El Motassadeq—is mentioned as well. However, apparently German intelligence fails to grasp the importance of these names, even though Bahaji and El Motassadeq are also under investigation at this time (see August 29, 1998). The Marienstrasse apartment is the center of the cell’s activity (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). [Associated Press, 6/22/2002; New York Times, 1/18/2003; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003] Atta’s first and last name are mentioned in the phone call between Zammar’s parents. Agents check the Marienstrasse phone number, which they find is registered to Bahaji. They also confirm the street address, but it is not known what they make of the information. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003]
German intelligence is periodically tapping suspected al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s telephone, and on this day investigators hear Zammar call 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Officials initially claim that the call also mentions hijacker Mohamed Atta, but only his first name. [Daily Telegraph, 11/24/2001; New York Times, 1/18/2003] However, his full name, “Mohamed Atta Al Amir,” is mentioned in this call and in another recorded call. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] Alshehhi makes veiled references to plans to travel to Afghanistan. He also hands the phone over to Said Bahaji (another member of the Hamburg cell under investigation at the time), so he can talk to Zammar. [Stern, 8/13/2003] German investigators still do not know Alshehhi’s full name, but they recognize this “Marwan” also called Zammar in January, and they told the CIA about that call. Alshehhi, living in the United Arab Emirates at the time, calls Zammar frequently. German intelligence asks the United Arab Emirates to identify the number and the caller, but the request is not answered. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 2/3/2003]
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. [New York Times, 9/10/2002; CBS News, 5/7/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 561; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Zammar is Bahaji’s best man in the wedding. [New York Times, 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. [Vanity Fair, 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.” [New York Times, 9/10/2002]
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]
German investigators are monitoring Said Bahaji, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, for his ties to Mamoun Darkazanli. They had been monitoring a Marienstrasse address where Bahaji had been living. But Bahaji moved out after his 1999 wedding (see October 9, 1999) to live down the street with his new wife. A request to continue monitoring the Marienstrasse address is denied in 2000 for lack of evidence. Bahaji had lived at that address with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and other members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Although Bahaji, Atta, and Alshehhi all moved out by mid-2000, other associates like Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Zakariya Essabar, and Abdelghani Mzoudi moved in. Atta’s name stayed on the lease until early 2001. [New York Times, 6/20/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 495]
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 ] 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]
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).
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:
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. [El Mundo (Madrid), 9/30/2001]
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)). [New York Times, 5/1/2002]
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. [El Mundo (Madrid), 9/30/2001; US Department of Justice, 5/20/2002]
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]
Amer el-Azizi. [Wall Street Journal, 4/7/2004; Associated Press, 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. [Wall Street Journal, 3/19/2004] Calls possibly related to the meeting’s organization were overheard (see Before July 8, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 4/14/2004; Los Angeles Times, 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. [Associated Press, 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).
Barakat Yarkas, head of an al-Qaeda-linked cell in Spain. [New York Times, 11/20/2001; Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2003]
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). [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2003; BBC Worldwide Monitoring, 12/2/2004]
Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, associates of Atta’s from Germany.
Al Jazeera reporter Tayseer Allouni.
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]
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). [New York Times, 11/20/2001; Los Angeles Times, 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).
Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Wail Alshehri, Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Amer el-Azizi, Yosri Fouda, Mohammed Belfatmi, Tayseer Allouni, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Barakat Yarkas
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
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]
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. [Chicago Tribune, 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).
Farid Hilali, a.k.a. Shakur. [Source: Reuters]Spanish police tape a series of cryptic, coded phone calls from a caller in Britain using the codename “Shakur” to Barakat Yarkas (also known as Abu Dahdah), the leader of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell presumably visited by Mohamed Atta in July. A Spanish judge will claim that a call by a man using the alias “Shakur” on this day shows foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. “Shakur” says that he is “giving classes” and that “in our classes, we have entered the field of aviation, and we have even cut the bird’s throat.” Another possible translation is, “We are even going to cut the eagle’s throat,” which would be a clearer metaphor for the US. [Observer, 11/25/2001; Guardian, 2/14/2002] Spanish authorities later claim that detective work and voice analysis shows “Shakur” is Farid Hilali, a young Moroccan who had lived mostly in Britain since 1987. The Spanish later will charge him for involvement in the 9/11 plot, claiming that, in the 45 days preceding 9/11, he travels constantly in airplanes “to analyse them and to be prepared for action.” It will be claimed that he is training on aircraft in the days leading up to 9/11. It will further be said that he is connected to the Madrid train bombing in 2003. [London Times, 6/30/2004; Scotsman, 7/15/2004; London Times, 7/16/2004] The Spanish Islamic militant cell led by Yarkas is allegedly a hub of financing, recruitment, and support services for al-Qaeda in Europe. Yarkas’s phone number will later also be found in the address book of Said Bahaji, and he had ties with Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli. All three are associates of Atta in Hamburg. [Los Angeles Times, 11/23/2001] Yarkas also “reportedly met with bin Laden twice and was in close contact with” top deputy Muhammad Atef. [Washington Post, 11/19/2001] On November 11, 2001, Yarkas and ten other Spaniards will be arrested and charged with al-Qaeda activity. [New York Times, 11/20/2001]
Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji leaves Germany for Pakistan, and travels under his own name (see September 3-5, 2001), but German authorities apparently fail to notice his departure. In March 2000, Bahaji’s name was placed on a German watch list, and his name has remained on that list (see March 2000). So, according to normal procedures, his name should have been flagged when his flight information was recorded on a computer. Then a fax should have been sent from German immigration authorities to the BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence service. But in 2003, a BfV official will claim that the BfV was never informed about Bahaji’s departure. The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will be extremely skeptical that the BfV is being honest about this. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003]
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. [Chicago Tribune, 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). [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 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. [Los Angeles Times, 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. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003; Chicago Tribune, 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). [Los Angeles Times, 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. [Fortune, 10/30/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001; Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] Ahmed is suspected by German investigators of having a “major role” in preparations for 9/11. [CNN, 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.” [Pioneer, 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. [Fortune, 10/30/2001; CNN, 10/31/2001; Chicago Tribune, 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).
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). [Chicago Tribune, 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.
In searches conducted shortly after the 9/11 attacks, investigators discover direct links between the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg and the Madrid al-Qaeda cell led by Barakat Yarkas. German police find Yarkas’s phone number in papers belong to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. His number is also found in the diary of Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji. [New York Times, 12/28/2001; Irujo, 2005, pp. 150-153] Investigators also find many videos of sermons by Abu Qatada in the apartment where Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell used to live. Qatada is already closely linked to Yarkas and his Madrid cell (see 1995-February 2001). [Guardian, 8/11/2005] Since Spanish intelligence had been monitoring Yarkas’s call since 1995 (see 1995 and After), it is unknown if they ever monitored a call between Yarkas and Atta or Bahaji. However, no such calls will be mentioned in subsequent trials in Spain. The Spanish did monitor numerous calls between Yarkas and Hamburg associates Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). For years, the Spanish have merely been monitoring Yarkas’s cell. But after discovering these links, the decision is made to shut the cell down. Yarkas and others are arrested in November 2001 (see November 13, 2001). [Irujo, 2005, pp. 162-163] Qatada has been an informant for British intelligence since about 1997; it is unknown if he told his British handlers anything about the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg (see June 1996-February 1997).
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). [Knight Ridder, 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). [New York Times, 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). [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/2002]
Undated vacation photograph of Said Bahaji. From left to right: Bahaji’s sister Maryam, his German mother Annaliese, Bahaji, and his Moroccan father Abdullah. [Source: Public domain via the Wall Street Journal]Hamburg Al-Qaeda cell member Said Bahaji works with al-Qaeda and lives in the tribal region of Pakistan, but he maintains some contact with relatives in Germany. However, intelligence agencies are unable to arrest or kill him by tracing these contacts. Some captured militants later claim they saw Bahaji in training camps in Afghanistan in the months after 9/11 (see for instance September 10, 2001). They say that his leg was wounded in fighting with US forces there, and he now goes by the alias Abu Zuhair. In April 2002, Bahaji sends a letter to his mother Anneliese insisting on his innocence in the 9/11 attacks. German officials see this as a whitewash however, especially since he fled Germany to Pakistan a few days before the attacks (see September 3-5, 2001), showing foreknowledge by doing so. He continues to periodically contact family members in Germany with e-mails or phone calls. For instance, he sends his wife Neshe in Germany an e-mail in March 2004. Over time, the contacts between Bahaji and his wife grow contentious. He wants her and their young son to join him in the remote regions of Pakistan, but they are unable to work this out. In March 2006, they divorce via e-mail. Bahaji is later seen with a new wife from Spain, and new children. In 2009, Bahaji’s mother will say her last contact from her son came in a 2007 phone call (see 2007). Details of Bahaji’s other communications will not be made public until August 2011. According to Der Spiegel, Bahaji’s communications with people in Germany have been “agonizing for investigators who were chasing Bahaji, but never managed to localize him in time.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
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]
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:
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).
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).
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).
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. [Chicago Tribune, 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).
Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Barakat Yarkas, Abdul-Matin Tatari, Abdelghani Mzoudi, Mamoun Darkazanli, Zakariya Essabar, Said Bahaji, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Naamen Meziche, Mounir El Motassadeq, German intelligence community, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Haydar Zammar
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
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. [New York Times, 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. [Independent, 2/20/2003]
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. [New York Times, 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]
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). [Guardian, 10/29/2009; Dawn (Karachi), 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. [Guardian, 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.” [Guardian, 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. [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. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 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. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 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. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010]
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. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 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]
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