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Context of '1996: Germans Start Money Laundering Investigation into Al-Qaeda Hamburg Cell Figures Darkazanli and Zammar'

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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 pdf file] 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.

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mohamed Atta, Mamoun Darkazanli, Al-Qaeda, Said Bahaji, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In 1996, German authorities begin investigating Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, and four others for money laundering. The investigation apparently begins with Darkazanli and four unnamed others, and grows to incorporate Zammar. Darkazanli and Zammar are friends, and both are closely linked to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. The investigation is run by the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s federal crime investigation agency. In late 1998, Darkazanli will be increasingly suspected for various other terrorism ties. But in early 2000, chief federal prosecutor Kay Nehm will refuse to initiate terrorism investigation proceedings against him, saying there is not enough evidence. Prior to 9/11, German law makes it hard to convict anyone for a terrorism offense unless it can be proven they were involved in an attack on German soil. However, Der Spiegel will later note that while that was true, Darkazanli could have been charged with money laundering instead. The money laundering investigation will resume shortly after 9/11. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/29/2001]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Kay Nehm, Bundeskriminalamt Germany, Mamoun Darkazanli

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The arrest of al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) points US and German investigators to Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, with a few of the future 9/11 hijackers. Salim is arrested on September 16, 1998, in Munich, Germany (see September 16, 1998). He is believed to be al-Qaeda’s financial chief, and is one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988). After Salim’s arrest, both German and US intelligence investigate his contacts in Germany and discover a link to Zammar. Zammar is already being investigated and monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service (see March 1997-Early 2000). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 12/12/2005] Presumably, the link between Zammar and Salim should increase the urgency of the German investigation. It is unknown when US intelligence begins monitoring Zammar, but the US will discover important links between Zammar and al-Qaeda in the summer of 1999 (see Summer 1999). US and German investigators also discover a link between Salim and Mamoun Darkazanli, a Hamburg associate of Zammar’s, and they monitor him as well (see Late 1998).

Entity Tags: Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Mamoun Darkazanli, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz, Al-Qaeda, US intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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