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Context of 'March 5, 2009: Member of Al-Qaeda’s Hamburg Cell Able to Go to Training Camps after Being Investigated in Germany for Years'

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Would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh makes three phone calls on this day, and one is to 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi in the US. Bin al-Shibh makes the three calls from the airport in Dusseldorf, Germany, as he is about to take a flight to Spain on his way to Pakistan (see September 5, 2001). Nothing more is known about the call to Alghamdi. However, the call may be an opportunity to discover the 9/11 plot, because at least some of bin al-Shibh’s phone calls are monitored around this time. Details are murky, but a call between bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is monitored in late July 2001, although it is not clear if it is monitored by US or German intelligence, or both (see July 20, 2001).
Second Call to Jordanian - At the airport, bin al-Shibh also calls an unnamed Jordanian who is said to be a close friend of 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah from a time both of them were studying in Griefswald, Germany, in the mid-1990s. This person lived in the same Hamburg apartment as hijacker Mohamed Atta, was said to have become an Islamist radical, and shared bank accounts and cell phone numbers with some of the hijackers living in Hamburg. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/2003] This almost certainly is Bashir Musleh, because Musleh is a Jordanian who is a close friend of Jarrah’s from when they both studied in Griefswald. Author Terry McDermott identifies him as one of the Hamburg group. [McDermott, 2005, pp. xi, 53]
Third Call to Cell Member Meziche - The third and final call is to Naamen Meziche, a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. The call to Meziche’s house lasts 34 seconds. Meziche appears to be a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, but German investigators will never be able to develop enough evidence to charge him with a crime. He will be killed in a drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Saeed Alghamdi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta, Bashir Musleh, Naamen Meziche

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Naamen Meziche.Naamen Meziche. [Source: Public domain]Shortly after 9/11, US officials are finally able to investigate the possessions of prisoner Zacarias Moussaoui, and they discover the phone number of Naamen Meziche on a piece of paper. Meziche is an apparent member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, although his involvement in the cell will only be made public after he is killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan in 2010 (see October 5, 2010). He is a French citizen of Algerian descent, and a longtime resident of Hamburg, Germany. Investigators also learn that Moussaoui called Meziche’s number at some time in August 2001 (presumably before Moussaoui’s arrest on August 16 (see Early August 2001)). German intelligence begins investigating Meziche and discovers more phone and e-mail communications with suspected al-Qaeda operatives. Few details are publicly released, but one detail is known: on September 5, 2001, hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh called Meziche from the airport as he was leaving Germany for Pakistan in anticipation of the 9/11 attacks (see September 5, 2001). Police ask dozens of witnesses for evidence against Meziche. In 2002, Meziche is questioned by police and denies getting the calls from bin al-Shibh or Moussaoui. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010] In 2003, the German government secretly classifies Meziche as a threat. An investigation is launched in 2004 with the hope of charging him with forming a terrorist organization, but it is later suspended. On March 5, 2009, Meziche flies to Pakistan with a group of radical Islamists from Pakistan and attends training camps (see March 5, 2009). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/11/2010] After Meziche’s death in the 2010 drone strike, German investigators will express their frustration at being unable to arrest him. On several occasions, suspects have been pulled off of airplanes just before takeoff, only to be released a few hours later. One unnamed intelligence official will say: “You can’t charge them with a crime until they show up in a terrorist camp. And then we can only hope they don’t return.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2010]

Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, German intelligence community, Naamen Meziche, Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Unidentified suspects being led out of the bookstore in April 2002.Unidentified suspects being led out of the bookstore in April 2002. [Source: DPA]In April 2002, a group of men in Hamburg, Germany, is allegedly overheard pledging themselves to become martyrs for Islam. This is said to take place in an Islamic bookstore. Fearing the group could be planning a new attack, on July 3, 2002, German police detain eight men over the incident. The men are questioned and then are let go. One of the men is said to be Abdelghani Mzoudi, an alleged member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg with three of the 9/11 hijackers. [Chicago Tribune, 10/11/2002] Another is Abderrasak Labied, who is Mzoudi’s long-time roommate and is said to have been close to the group that included the hijackers. A police official will later say, “We wanted to give these individuals a signal that they were under police control, that they had no chance to continue with their development, that we were going to restrict their liberty, and that we were going to keep them under very close observation in the future.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/11/2002] Mzoudi will be arrested in October 2002 for a role in the 9/11 plot (see October 10, 2002). He will be convicted but then later acquitted (see February 5, 2004-June 8, 2005). In early 2003, it will be claimed that the al-Qaeda cell may still exist in Hamburg (see January 30, 2003), and at least one member of the cell from before 9/11 will join a group of Hamburg men who go to the militant training camps in Afghanistan in 2009 (see March 5, 2009).

Entity Tags: Abderrasak Labied, Abdelghani Mzoudi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohamed Atta has his hands on the shoulders of Mohammed Rajih in a portion of a 1999 group photo.Mohamed Atta has his hands on the shoulders of Mohammed Rajih in a portion of a 1999 group photo. [Source: DDP/ AFP]The Los Angeles Times reports that an al-Qaeda cell may still exist in Hamburg, Germany, and al-Qaeda sympathizers are threatening witnesses in a trial there. The CIA told the German government in late 2002 that it suspects an al-Qaeda cell is still present in Hamburg. It is known that a criminal investigation of at least eight suspected cell members is continuing in Germany. Mounir El Motassadeq is on trial for a role in the 9/11 plot. According to the Times, police have taped “telephone conversations of people—who never identify themselves—telling El Motassadeq’s wife that they would give her money if she needs it, implying that El Motassadeq will be assisted as long as he remains quiet.” One witness withdrew his statement to police after he was told he might need to testify publicly. Another witness named Shahid Nickels, who lived with hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh at one point, has told investigators that after 9/11, a man named Mohammed Rajih urged him to destroy any phone number or other contact information he might have for the Hamburg cell. Rajih soon moved to Morocco. He is suspected of being involved with the cell, and was under investigation even before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 1/30/2003] In 2009, a group of ten men who regularly attend the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg—the same mosque attended by three of the 9/11 hijackers—will depart for militant training camps in Pakistan. One of the men, Naamen Meziche, will turn out to have been a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell even before 9/11 (see March 5, 2009 and August 9, 2010).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Rajih, Al-Qaeda, Shahid Nickels, Mounir El Motassadeq

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: German intelligence community, Ahmad Sidiqi, Shahab Dashti, Naamen Meziche

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Shahab Dashti holding a large sword in a 2009 militant propaganda video.Shahab Dashti holding a large sword in a 2009 militant propaganda video. [Source: Public domain via Der Spiegel]Two members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell before 9/11 allegedly have a reunion in Pakistan’s tribal region. In March 2009, three Islamist militants—Naamen Meziche, Ahmad Sidiqi, and Shahab Dashti—left their homes in Germany and went together to al-Qaeda linked training camps in Pakistan (see March 5, 2009). Meziche was an apparent member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with a few of the 9/11 hijackers, but the German government was never able to charge him with any crime despite investigating him for years (see Shortly After September 11, 2001-March 5, 2009). The three militants live in Mir Ali, a town in Pakistan’s tribal region controlled by tribes allied with al-Qaeda. Sidiqi will be arrested in early July 2010, and is held at the US military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. [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]

Entity Tags: Said Bahaji, Bunyamin E., Ahmad Sidiqi, Naamen Meziche, Shahab Dashti, Rami Makanesi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohammed Fazazi, Naamen Meziche

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: Bunyamin E., Shahab Dashti, Naamen Meziche

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

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

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Ahmad Sidiqi, Manfred Murck, Naamen Meziche, Mamoun Darkazanli

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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