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Context of 'September 3, 2001: German Authorities Allegedly Fail to Notice Al-Qaeda Hamburg Cell Member Bahaji Leave Germany'

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Mounir El Motassadeq.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).

Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, German intelligence community, Mohamed Atta, Said Bahaji

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 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]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 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

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

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]

Entity Tags: Said Bahaji, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Al-Qaeda Hamburg cell member Mohammed Haydar Zammar is on a German watch list of suspected Muslim extremists before 9/11, the Washington Post will later report. However, more details, such as when he is placed on the watch list, are unknown. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] Cell members Said Bahaji and Mounir El Motassadeq are also placed on a watch list, both of them in March 2000 (see March 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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