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According to a book (citing federal law enforcement sources) by Jurgen Roth, described by Newsday as “one of Germany’s top investigative reporters,” in this year the BKA (the German Federal Office for criminal investigations) investigates future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta for petty drug crimes and falsifying phone cards whilst he is a student at the Technical University at Hamburg-Harburg. While he isn’t charged, a record of the investigation will prevent him from getting a security job with Lufthansa Airlines in early 2001 (see February 15, 2001). (Roth 2001, pp. 9f; Moore 1/24/2002)
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)
When traveling with a radical associate known to be monitored by German intelligence, Abdulrahman al-Makhadi (see Late 1996 or After), Ziad Jarrah meets another suspicious Islamic radical. The man, a convert, is known in public accounts only as Marcel K and is the vice president of the Islamic center in North-Rhine Westphalia. In March 2001, the Bundeskriminalamt federal criminal service will begin investigating the center’s president with respect to membership in a terrorist organization. Marcel K is apparently a close confidant of Jarrah, because Jarrah always calls him before taking important decisions, for example when he leaves to train in Afghanistan and when he applies for admission to US flight schools. He will also call Marcel K during his pilot training, for the last time shortly before 9/11. (Schrom and Laabs 2/2/2003) Marcel K will be arrested in a Europe-wide sweep of Islamic militants in February 2003. (Deutsche Welle (Bonn) 2/6/2003; Jansen 2/7/2003; Hoge 2/7/2003) It is not known what happens to him after this.
The BKA, the German counterpart to the FBI, prepares an extensive report on al-Qaeda’s connections in Germany. The BKA warns that “Unknown structures” are preparing to stage attacks abroad. However, the German federal prosecutor’s office rejects a proposed follow-up investigation. One of the persons named in the BKA report supposedly had contacts with the Hamburg terror cell. (Forster 9/24/2001)
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed spends three weeks in Italy in early 2000. This is according to the BKA (German intelligence). It is unknown what he does there or who he meets. It also will not be made public when the BKA learns this. (McDermott 2005, pp. 209, 299)
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)
The Bundeskriminalamt (BKA), Germany’s federal anticrime agency, obtains a DNA sample for one of the 9/11 hijackers, alleged Flight 93 pilot Ziad Jarrah, after a search of the home of his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen. After the BKA sends the sample to the FBI, the bureau matches it with the DNA profile of one of four sets of unknown human remains recovered from the site in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed. According to an FBI report provided to the 9/11 Commission, presumably sometime between 2003 and 2004, no relatives of the alleged 9/11 hijackers provide the bureau with DNA samples for comparison. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 2003)
Al-Qaeda operative Luai Sakra apparently goes into hiding in the region of Stuttgart, Germany, after 9/11. He reportedly gave details of the 9/11 attacks to the Syrian government shortly before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). The Syrians then passed this on to the CIA shortly after 9/11. According to Der Spiegel, while Sakra’s name was not made public, “For the Mossad and the CIA he [soon] became one of the most wanted men in the world.” (Cziesche, Dahlkamp, and Stark 8/15/2005) In late 2005, after Sakra’s arrest in Turkey (see July 30, 2005), the German television news show Panorama will report that the German BKA (Federal Office of Criminal Investigation) suspects the German BND (Federal Intelligence Service) to have helped Sakra escape from Germany in late 2001. Supposedly, German police had learned where he was staying in Germany, but the BND enabled him to escape via France to Syria in order to prevent further investigations about him. Panorama will report that Sakra was secretly still working for Syrian intelligence and was giving them information about al-Qaeda’s leadership. Sakra will go on to mastermind a series of suicide bombings in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2003 (see November 15-20, 2003) before being arrested in 2005 (see July 30, 2005). (Agence France-Presse 10/27/2005) The Bundestag [lower chamber of the German parliament] Parliamentary Control Body will meet in November 2005 to discuss the allegations, but the session is held in secret and what is said exactly will not be not publicly revealed. (BBC 11/9/2005) The Bundestag will later issue a short statement clearing the BND of any wrongdoing in the case. (Deutscher Bundestag 11/30/2005) But in 2007, a book by former CIA Director George Tenet will indicate that not only did Sakra have some foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, but he was an informant for the CIA and Syrian intelligence before 9/11 as well (see September 10, 2001). Other evidence suggests Sakra was also an informant for Turkish intelligence before 9/11 (see Early August 2001). If he was an informant for any of these countries, it would explain why the BND might have wanted to protect him from arrest and investigation.
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. (Stark 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. (Laabs 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.” (Stark 11/21/2005)
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