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Context of '1991-1996: Future Hamburg Cell Member Zammar Travels Widely, Becomes Al-Qaeda Operative'

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Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who will later be the chief recruiter for and a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, travels widely and joins al-Qaeda. Zammar was born in Syria but his family moved to Hamburg, Germany, in 1971. He became a German citizen and renounced his Syrian citizenship about a decade later. By his late teens, he developed a friendship with Mamoun Darkazanli, a fellow Syrian, and both of them joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Zammar worked as an auto mechanic until about 1991, when he decides to become a full time militant, and he mostly lives on government benefits after that.
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan - In 1991, Zammar goes to Afghanistan and trains at an elite camp linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He fights with Hekmatyar’s forces against the Communist Afghan government before returning to Hamburg by the end of 1991.
Active in Many Countries - Over the next five years, he makes about 40 trips out of Germany, often to countries where Islamist militants are fighting. In 1995, he fights in Bosnia with other Arabs against the Serbians. In 1996, he goes to Afghanistan again and formally pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, according to an unnamed Arab intelligence agency.
His Travels Cause Attention - All of Zammar’s traveling brings him to the attention of Turkish intelligence, and it notifies German intelligence about his radical militant links in 1996 (see 1996). Knowing that his militant activity is not illegal in Germany as long as he is not involved in a plot targeting Germany, Zammar speaks openly about his travels and exploits, and he becomes very well known within the Islamist extremist community in Hamburg. He begins recruiting others to become active militants and attend Afghan training camps. [Washington Post, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 1/18/2003]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohammed Haydar Zammar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

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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