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The Hamburg cell (Template:Lang-de) was, according to U.S. and German intelligence agencies, a group of radical Islamists that included students who eventually came to be key operatives in the 9/11 attacks. Important members included Mohamed Atta, who led the four hijacking teams in 2001 and piloted American Airlines Flight 11; Ramzi Binalshibh, who conspired with the other three members but was unable to enter the United States; and Marwan al-Shehhi, who piloted United Airlines Flight 175. Less important members included Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Mounir el Motassadeq, and Abdelghani Mzoudi. Ziad Jarrah, who piloted United Airlines Flight 93, and failed to hit the United States Capitol is also sometimes listed in the Hamburg cell.
On November 1, 1998, future-hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ramzi Binalshibh moved into a three-room apartment (two bedrooms, one living room, one kitchen) together on Marienstrasse. Here they formed the secretive Hamburg cell, which also included other minor participants in the 9/11 plot. They met together three or four times a week to discuss their anti-American and anti-Israeli views, and to decide how best to fight for their cause.
As late as 1999, the four core members of the group had intended to wage jihad in Chechnya , where Islamic jihadists were then and are now rebelling against the parent country of Russia. The 9/11 Commission Report notes in Chapter 5 that "according to Binalshibh [who is now in U.S. custody], a chance meeting on a train in Germany caused the group to travel to Afghanistan instead. An individual named Khalid al Masri (or Khalid al-Masri) approached Binalshibh and Shehhi (because they were Arabs with beards, Binalshibh thinks) and struck up a conversation about jihad in Chechnya. When they later called Masri and expressed interest in going to Chechnya, he told them to contact Abu Musab in Duisburg, Germany. Abu Musab turned out to be Mohamedou Ould Slahi , a significant al-Qaeda operative who, even then, was well known to U.S. and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany in late 1999."
Binalshibh, Shehhi and Jarrah visited Slahi in Duisburg, where he convinced them that it would be best to train in Afghanistan first, because further experience would be useful, and anyway it was difficult at that time to get into Chechnya. Slahi instructed them to travel to Karachi, Pakistan, then to the Taliban office in Quetta, Pakistan, where they were to contact a man named Umar al Masri. Atta and Jarrah left Hamburg during the last week of November, 1999. Shehhi left by himself around the same time; Binalshibh followed two weeks later.
"Umar al Masri" turned out to be a nonexistent person. The name was a code word that instructed members of the Taliban office to escort the men to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where they were convinced to join the al-Qaeda network and wage jihad against America. They met with Osama bin Laden himself and swore their loyalty to him. Mohamed Atta was chosen by Bin Laden as the leader of the group that would attack America; Atta would contact Bin Laden several more times before the attacks. The men then returned to Germany to enroll in flight training school, and later moved on to flight training schools in the United States at the recommendation of one of their German instructors.
The members of the Hamburg Cell were a boon to the 9/11 plot, which Khalid Shaikh Mohammed had proposed to Bin Laden in 1996. The Hamburg students were fluent in English, educated, accustomed to the Western lifestyle, radically Islamic, and capable of learning to pilot aircraft. "Bin Laden and Mohammed Atef wasted no time in assigning the Hamburg group to the most ambitious operation yet planned by al-Qaeda," the 9/11 Commission Report says.
Many al-Qaida members lived in the Hamburg apartment at various times. In all, 29 men listed the apartment as their home address while Mohamed Atta's name was on the lease. Reportedly, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visited the apartment repeatedly.
German intelligence monitored the apartment, but did not find any evidence against the residents. Both the United States' Central Intelligence Agency and German Intelligence have received criticism for failing to share information on these and other al-Qaida members.
Hijacker and pilot Ziad Jarrah is listed by the 9/11 Commission Report as being a part of the Hamburg cell as well. He did not live with any of the others, however, and can only be confirmed to have met with any of them in Hamburg on a single occasion: that of Said Bahaji's wedding at the al-Quds Mosque. The closeness of his connections with the others is not known. He left for Afghanistan with the others, can be seen in a video tape with Atta made there.
Hamburg Cell filmEdit
The film Hamburg Cell is a docudrama on the planning and execution of the attacks. A co-production between Channel 4 and CBC, it was shown in the UK during September 2004, amid criticism that this was too close to the anniversary of the attack. Using computer-generated imagery, the film's producers were able to show the twin towers of the World Trade Center, before the attack, in the background. Ziad Jarrah is featured calling his girlfriend, Aysel Sengün, from a public telephone at the airport, repeating the words 'I love you' over and over.
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According to CIA documents, US intelligence first becomes aware of Mamoun Darkazanli at this time, when a person arrested in Africa carrying false passports and counterfeit money is found with Darkazanli’s telephone number. Darkazanli is a Syrian businessman residing in Germany. The CIA carefully scrutinizes Darkazanli and his business dealings, but authorities are not able to make a case against him. [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 185 ] Many will later claim that Darkazanli is a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. He will associate with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and others. Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
1995 and After: Spanish Intelligence Begins Monitoring Al-Qaeda Cell Later Linked to 9/11 Hamburg Cell
Barakat Yarkas. [Source: Public domain] The Spanish government begins monitoring an al-Qaeda cell based in Madrid and led by Barakat Yarkas. The cell members call themselves the “Soldiers of Allah.” The New York Times will later report that a document listing telephone intercepts “makes clear that Spanish intelligence has been watching Mr. Yarkas and listening to him in his interactions with other suspected al-Qaeda operatives around Europe and Asia since at least 1997.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/20/2001] In fact, Spain begins monitoring the cell in 1995, if not earlier. [IRUJO, 2005, PP. 23-40] The cell formed in the early 1990s, and the members distributed literature at a Madrid mosque about the activities of Islamist militants, including communiqués issued by Osama bin Laden. They indoctrinate some young Muslims who were interested, and recruit several to fight in Bosnia. Yarkas and others in the cell pose as middle-class businesspeople, but they also are observed committing a variety of crimes to raise money for al-Qaeda (see Late 1995 and After). Yarkas frequently travels, going to such countries as Turkey, Belgium, Sweden, Jordan, Denmark, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He makes more than 20 trips to Britain. By 1998, he is in contact with members of the same al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg that contains participants in the 9/11 plot such as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. But while Spanish intelligence shares their surveillance with the CIA, they do not inform German intelligence (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). In 1998, a Saudi millionaire named Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi moves to Spain and interacts with members of the cell, and soon the Spanish begin monitoring him too. It will later be alleged that Zouaydi is a key al-Qaeda financier. In July 2001, Spanish intelligence will hear members of the cell planning for a meeting in Spain that is attended by Atta and others, but apparently they will fail to monitor the meeting itself (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001). In 2003, the Spanish government will charge a number of people they claim are members of the cell. Some will be convicted for having al-Qaeda ties, and some will not. Yarkas will get a 25-year sentence (see September 26, 2005). Most of the evidence against them will actually have been collected before 9/11. [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/20/2001; CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/19/2003] Entity Tags: Barakat Yarkas, Al-Qaeda, Centro Nacional de Inteligencia, Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
1996: Germans Begin Investigating Hamburg Cell Member after Tip from Turkey
Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Source: Knut Mueller] Turkish intelligence informs German’s domestic intelligence service that Mohammed Haydar Zammar is a radical militant who has been traveling to trouble spots around the world. He has already made more than 40 journeys to places like Bosnia and Chechnya. Turkey explains that Zammar is running a dubious travel agency in Hamburg, organizing flights for radical militants to Afghanistan. As a result, by early 1997 German intelligence will launch Operation Zartheit, an investigation of Islamic militants in the Hamburg area. The Germans will use a full range of intelligence techniques, including wiretaps and informants. [STERN, 8/13/2003; VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Apparently, while Zammar was a teenager in Syria, he became friends with Mamoun Darkazanli and the two of them joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. In 1991, Zammar trained and fought in Afghanistan with the forces of the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. In 1995, he fought in Bosnia against the Serbs, while based in Zenica with other mujaheddin. German intelligence apparently is familiar with at least some of Zammar’s background, because the New York Times will later report that Zammar “had been identified [in the late 1980s] by German authorities as a militant who frequented mosques in Hamburg and elsewhere.” [WASHINGTON POST, 9/11/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 1/18/2003] Operation Zartheit will run at least three years and connect Zammar to many of the 9/11 plotters. Entity Tags: Germany, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Office for the Protection of the Constitution Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Early 1996: Future 9/11 Hijackers Begin Attending Mosque Monitored by German Authorities
The Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg was monitored by German authorities. [Source: Knut Muller] Mohamed Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell begin regularly attending the Al Quds mosque and fall under surveillance by the German authorities. Atta becomes a well-known figure both there and at other mosques in the city. He grows a beard at this time, which some commentators interpret as a sign of greater religious devotion. The mosque is home to numerous radicals. For example, one of the preachers, Mohammed Fazazi, advocates killing non-believers and encourages his followers to embrace martyrdom (see Mid-Late 1990s). After a time, Atta begins to teach classes at the mosque; he is stern with his students and criticizes them for wearing their hair in ponytails and gold chains around their necks, as well as for listening to music, which he says is a product of the devil. If a woman shows up, her father is informed she is not welcome and this is one of the reasons that, of the 80 students that start the classes, only a handful are left at the end. One of Atta’s associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, also teaches classes and fellow hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah attend and possibly first meet Atta there. Other mosque attendees who interact with the future hijackers at the mosque include Said Bahaji, and al-Qaeda operatives Mamoun Darkazanli and Mohammed Haydar Zammar. According to author Terry McDermott, German investigators notice Bahaji meets frequently with Darkazanli and Zammar at the mosque, so they presumably have a source inside it. [PBS FRONTLINE, 1/2002; BURKE, 2004, PP. 242; MCDERMOTT, 2005, PP. 1-5, 34-37, 72] The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung will later report that there was an informer working for the LfV, the Hamburg state intelligence agency, inside the mosque by 1999 and that he appeared to be interested in Atta, Jarrah, Alshehhi, bin al-Shibh, Bahaji and others (see April 1, 1999). [FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG (FRANKFURT), 2/2/2003] Entity Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Said Bahaji, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Marwan Alshehhi, Mamoun Darkazanli Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
June 25, 1996: Khobar Towers Are Bombed; Unclear Who Culprit Is
Destruction at the Khobar Towers, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. [Source: US Air Force] Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN, 6/26/1996] Saudi officials later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them—without letting the FBI talk to them. [PBS FRONTLINE, 2001; IRISH TIMES, 11/19/2001] Saudis blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators still believe bin Laden was involved. [SEATTLE TIMES, 10/29/2001] US intelligence listens when al-Qaeda’s number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri calls bin Laden two days after the bombing to congratulate him on the operation (see June 27, 1996). The New York Times will later report that Mamoun Darkazanli, a suspected al-Qaeda financier with extensive ties to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, is involved in the attack. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/25/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 9/29/2001] Bin Laden will admit to instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [MIAMI HERALD, 9/24/2001] Ironically, the bin Laden family’s construction company will be awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [NEW YORKER, 11/5/2001] In 1997, Canada will catch one of the Khobar Tower attackers and extradite him to the US. However, in 1999, he will be shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider will call it “President Clinton’s parting kiss to the Saudis.” [PALAST, 2002, PP. 102] In June 2001, a US grand jury will indict 13 Saudis for the bombing. According to the indictment, Iran and Hezbollah were also involved in the attack. [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003] Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Al-Qaeda, Mamoun Darkazanli, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Hezbollah, Ayman al-Zawahiri Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
(1997-1999): Hamburg Cell Members Work at Local Computer Company Alleged lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, fellow plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and two of their associates, Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mohammed Belfas, find employment at a small Hamburg-area computer company called Hay Computing Service GmbH. [FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 1/11/2002, PP. 30; FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 4/19/2002] Marwan Alshehhi also reportedly works there. [WATERLOO COURIER, 12/30/2001] Atta and Belfas got their jobs through Agus Budiman, an Indonesian associate of theirs, who was already employed at the company. [9/11 COMMISSION, 1/28/2004 ] Another unnamed individual, who will be investigated after 9/11, also works there with bin al-Shibh. [9/11 COMMISSION, 11/6/2003] The cell members work in the company’s warehouse, packing computers for shipment. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/9/2001; FOUDA AND FIELDING, 2003, PP. 123; DER SPIEGEL (HAMBURG), 9/8/2003] Entity Tags: Agus Budiman, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta, Mohammed bin Nasser Belfas, Hay Computing Service GmbH, Mohammed Haydar Zammar Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
May 1997: David Edger Is New CIA Chief of Station in Germany
David Edger [Source: Daily Oklahoma (2002)] David Edger, a veteran CIA operative, is nominated chief of station at the US embassy in Berlin. [WASHINGTON POST, 5/1/1997] Previously, Edger had been associate deputy director for operations in the Directorate of Operations (DO) since July 1995. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/31/1995] The DO is the clandestine operations arm of the CIA. [TENET, 2007, PP. 18] Many reports in the German and international press indicate that the CIA was monitoring members of the Hamburg cell in the years before 9/11 and tried to recruit informers (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and December 1999). Although press reports do not mention him by name, these efforts would have been overseen by Edger. Edger will stay in this position until the summer of 2001, when he is appointed to the University of Oklahoma (see August 2001). Entity Tags: David Edger, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
December 1997-November 1998: Moroccan Man Ties Hamburg and Milan Al-Qaeda Cells Together
Mohamed Daki. [Source: Cageprisoners] Records indicate that would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh lives at the same Hamburg, Germany, address as a Moroccan named Mohamed Daki during this time. Daki will be arrested in April 2003, and will admit to knowing bin al-Shibh and some others in the Hamburg cell. In April 1999 Daki will obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it is not known if he goes there. It is generally assumed by the press that the Hamburg cell keep themselves separate from other al-Qaeda cells in Europe. However, Daki is an expert document forger and a member of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), but apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Daki is not made. German authorities will interview him after 9/11, and he will admit ties to bin al-Shibh, but he will be let go, not investigated further, and not put on any watch lists. He will later come under investigation in Italy for recruiting fighters to combat the US in Iraq. He will finally be arrested and charged for that, but not for his 9/11 connections. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 3/22/2004; NEW YORK TIMES, 3/22/2004] Entity Tags: Mohamed Daki, Al-Qaeda, Ramzi bin al-Shibh Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Summer-Winter 1998: Bin Al-Shibh and Alshehhi Not in Hamburg, Possibly Visiting Afghanistan Two members of the Hamburg cell comprising some of the lead 9/11 hijackers and their associates are absent from the city for periods. Ramzi bin al-Shibh vanishes from Germany over the summer, it is unclear where he goes. Marwan Alshehhi is unaccounted for over a period of three months. Before disappearing he withdraws over $5,000 from his bank and, while he is gone, his normally active credit card accounts are dormant. He makes no charges on them or withdrawals from ATM machines between September 3 and early December. Bin al-Shibh is again absent in the winter. Mohamed Atta is also absent from Hamburg around the same time (see Late 1997-Early 1998). Commenting on the disappearances, author Terry McDermott will say, “Practically, there is only one place they likely would have gone—Afghanistan.” [MCDERMOTT, 2005, PP. 57] Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan Alshehhi Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
October 2, 1998: Italian Tip Leads to Increased German Surveillance of Hamburg Cell Three Yemeni men are arrested in Turin, Italy. They are connected to planned attacks on US facilities in Europe. They are members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group led by al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Italian police search their apartments and discover beards, wigs, weapons, and contact details for Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. This information is quickly passed to the German domestic intelligence service. Prior to this point, Germany has been investigating Zammar (see March 1997), but apparently they are uncertain if his claims of training in Afghanistan and meeting bin Laden are idle boasts. But after these arrests in Italy, German intelligence will realize Zammar has connections to real terrorists. The surveillance operation on him, and others in the Hamburg cell, will increase in intensity. [STERN, 8/13/2003; VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Entity Tags: Germany, Italy, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Islamic Jihad Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Late 1998: El Hage Points to Darkazanli and Hamburg Cell
On top is El-Hageâs business card for his fake charity, Help Africa People. Below is his card for his business Anhar Trading. On the lower left is a US address and on the lower right is Darkazanliâs address in Germany. [Source: CNN] The CIA first became interested in Mamoun Darkazanli in 1993 (see 1993). The FBI shows interest in Darkazanli after al-Qaeda operatives Wadih El Hage and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) are arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001 and September 20, 1998). According to FBI documents, Darkazanli’s fax and telephone numbers are discovered in El Hage’s address book. Darkazanli’s Deutsche Bank account number is found in the book as well. [CNN, 10/16/2001] El-Hage had created a number of shell companies as fronts for al-Qaeda activities, and one of these uses the address of Darkazanli’s apartment. [CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/17/2002] Further, El-Hage’s business card shows Darkazanli’s Hamburg address. The FBI also discovers that Darkazanli has power of attorney over a bank account belonging to Salim, a high-ranking al-Qaeda member. El Hage will later be convicted for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings, and Salim will remain in US custody. [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/20/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 157 ] By this time, Darkazanli is associating with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, and may be a member of the cell himself. Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Mamoun Darkazanli, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
1999: KSM Repeatedly Visits Atta and Others in Al-Qaeda’s Hamburg Cell Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) “repeatedly” visits Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/24/2002] US and German officials say a number of sources place KSM at Atta’s Hamburg apartment, although when he visits, or who he visits while he is there, is unclear. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 6/6/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 11/4/2002] However, it would be logical to conclude that he visits Atta’s housemate Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, since investigators believe he is the “key contact between the pilots” and KSM. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 1/27/2003] KSM is living elsewhere in Germany at the time. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/22/2002] German intelligence monitors the apartment in 1999 but apparently does not notice KSM. US investigators have been searching for Mohammed since 1996, but apparently never tell the Germans what they know about him. [NEW YORK TIMES, 11/4/2002] Even after 9/11, German investigators complain that US investigators do not tell them what they know about KSM living in Germany until they read it in the newspapers in June 2002. [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/11/2002] Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
September 21, 1999: German Intelligence Records Calls Between Hijacker and Others Linked to Al-Qaeda German intelligence is periodically tapping suspected al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar’s telephone, and on this day investigators hear Zammar call hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Officials initially claim that the call also mentions hijacker Mohamed Atta, but only his first name. [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 11/24/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 1/18/2003] However, his full name, “Mohamed Atta Al Amir,” is mentioned in this call and in another recorded call. [FRANKFURTER ALLGEMEINE ZEITUNG (FRANKFURT), 2/2/2003] Alshehhi makes veiled references to plans to travel to Afghanistan. He also hands the phone over to Said Bahaji (another member of the Hamburg cell under investigation at the time), so he can talk to Zammar. [STERN, 8/13/2003] German investigators still do not know Alshehhi’s full name, but they recognize this “Marwan” also called Zammar in January, and they told the CIA about that call. Alshehhi, living in the United Arab Emirates at the time, calls Zammar frequently. German intelligence asks the United Arab Emirates to identify the number and the caller, but the request is not answered. [DER SPIEGEL (HAMBURG), 2/3/2003] Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Central Intelligence Agency, Said Bahaji, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, United Arab Emirates Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
October 1999: Hamburg Cell Downloads Flight Training Software According to German investigations, by at least this time, the Hamburg cell including Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh has come up with the idea of attacking the United States using airplanes. This theory is based on witness statements and the discovery by the German police of a flight simulator file on a computer used by the Hamburg cell that was downloaded by this time. [WASHINGTON POST, 9/11/2002; BURKE, 2004, PP. 244] Both Atta and Alshhehi start taking lessons on ultralight aircraft this year (see April 1999, October 1999, and December 1999). Some suggest they first joined the 9/11 plot in early 1999 (see Early 1999). However, the 9/11 Commission claims that the 9/11 plot was hatched by al-Qaeda’s leadership and was communicated to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell in Afghanistan in December 1999. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 165-169] Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
October 9, 1999: Wedding Connects Darkazanli with Hamburg Cell
Video footage of Said Bahaji’s wedding in October 1999. Clockwise from top left: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ziad Jarrah, and Marwan Alshehhi. [Source: Agence France-Presse] Mamoun Darkazanli, along with most of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, attends the wedding of Said Bahaji. Bahaji is one of Mohamed Atta’s roommates and believed to be a core member of the cell. The wedding takes place at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. A videotape of the wedding is discovered by German investigators shortly after 9/11, and eventually more than 20 men are identified from the video. Other attendees include: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Mounir el Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, and Abdelghani Mzoudi. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/10/2002; CBS NEWS, 5/7/2003; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 345, 561; VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Zammar is Bahaji’s best man in the wedding. [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/20/2002] The video first shows Bahaji’s nuptial ceremony, followed by a series of radical militant speeches and songs. The songs celebrate violent holy war and martyrdom. The New York Times will later report, “The presence of all of these men at the wedding of Mr. Bahaji has led investigators to believe that the plan to attack the United States had essentially been formed by then… .” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/10/2002] Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ziad Jarrah, Said Bahaji Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
October 23, 1999: Atta Enters US Green Card Lottery, Fails to Obtain Residency Mohamed Atta enters a lottery for permanent resident status in the US. The application is submitted over the Internet to the National Visa Service, a company that, for a $50 fee, helps individuals enter green card lotteries for permanent resident status in the US. Atta submits another lottery application in November, but both applications are unsuccessful. [US DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF VIRGINIA, ALEXANDRIA DIVISION, 7/31/2006, PP. 19-20 ] This may indicate that Atta is already involved in the 9/11 plot in some way prior to December 1999, when the 9/11 Commission suggests he joins the plot (see Late November-Early December 1999). He appears to have traveled to Afghanistan (see Late 1997-Early 1998) and has discussed studying in the US with his parents (see October 1999). In addition, he and fellow Hamburg cell member Marwan Alshehhi may have already started taking flying lessons (see April 1999 and October 1999). Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, National Visa Service, 9/11 Commission Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Late November-Early December 1999: Hamburg Cell Members Travel Monitored Route to Afghanistan
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
December 1999: CIA Attempts to Recruit Man with Links to Atta and Hamburg Cell
Mamoun Darkazanli. [Source: Interpol] The CIA begins “persistent” efforts to recruit German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli as an informant. Darkazanli knows Mohamed Atta and the other members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. US and German intelligence had previously opened investigations into Darkazanli in September 1998. Agents occasionally followed him, but Darkazanli obviously noticed the tail on him at least once. More costly and time-consuming electronic surveillance is not done however, and by the end of 1999, the investigation has produced little of value. German law does not allow foreign governments to have informants in Germany. So this month, Thomas Volz, the undercover CIA representative in Hamburg, appears at the headquarters of the Hamburg state domestic intelligence agency, the LfV, responsible for tracking terrorists and domestic extremists. He tells them the CIA believes Darkazanli has knowledge of an unspecified terrorist plot and encourages that he be “turned” against his al-Qaeda comrades. A source later recalls he says, “Darkazanli knows a lot.” Efforts to recruit him will continue in the spring next year. The CIA has not admitted this interest in Darkazanli. [CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/17/2002; STERN, 8/13/2003] Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Mohamed Atta, Ansaldo Energia, Thomas Volz, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Early 2000-2001: Italian Wiretaps Expose Militants’ European Network
Sami Ben Khemais. [Source: Agence France-Presse] Telephone wiretaps and listening devices used against a Milan-based Tunisian operative named Sami Ben Khemais provide investigators with “a trove of fresh information” and help them uncover a European network of Islamist radicals. Ben Khemais fell under surveillance some time after arriving in Italy from Afghan training camps in 1998 and has dealings with other radicals in Germany, Spain, Britain, France, Belgium, and Switzerland. Shortly after 9/11, a German official will say the network of interlocking cells uncovered changes counterterrorist thinking in Europe: “In the past, we had seen some links to Afghanistan, but we saw them as more or less acting here without close connections to al-Qaeda. Now we are seeing more and more links between cells and to al-Qaeda. We are rethinking everything.” The European cells are organized under two umbrellas, Takfir wal Hijra and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), and its three leaders are Abu Doha, who will be arrested in London (see February 2001); Mohamed Bensakhria, based in Frankfurt, but arrested in Spain; and Tarek Maaroufi, who is arrested in Belgium. The Milan cell of which Ben Khemais is part and which he finances by drug-trafficking, counterfeiting money and documents, and money laundering, is connected to the “Hamburg cell” that provides three 9/11 hijackers in various ways (see December 1997-November 1998, October 2, 1998, and 2000). [BOSTON GLOBE, 10/23/2001] Entity Tags: Tarek Maaroufi, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, Abu Doha, Islamic Cultural Institute, Mohamed Bensakhria, Sami Ben Khemais, Takfir Wal Hijra Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
January 5-8, 2000: Al-Qaeda Summit in Malaysia Discusses 9/11 and Cole Plots; CIA Has Malaysians Monitor It
Attendees of the Malaysian summit. Top row, from left: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Middle row, from left: Khallad bin Attash, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hambali. Bottom row, from left: Yazid Sufaat, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Fahad Al-Quso. [Source: FBI] About a dozen of bin Laden’s trusted followers hold a secret, “top-level al-Qaeda summit” in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. [CNN, 8/30/2002; SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 9/27/2002] Plans for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the 9/11 attacks are discussed. [USA TODAY, 2/12/2002; CNN, 8/30/2002] At the request of the CIA, the Malaysian Secret Service monitors the summit and then passes the information on to the US (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Attendees of the summit are said to include: Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar - The CIA and FBI will later miss many opportunities to foil the 9/11 plot through Alhazmi and Almihdhar and the knowledge of their presence at this summit. The CIA already knows many details about these two by the time the summit begins (see January 2-4, 2000), and tracked Almihdhar as he traveled to it (see January 2-5, 2000). Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - Mohammed is sometimes referred to as “KSM,” a top al-Qaeda leader and the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks. The US has known KSM is an Islamic militant since the exposure of Operation Bojinka in January 1995 (see January 6, 1995), and knows what he looks like. US officials have stated that they only realized the summit was important in the summer of 2001, but the presence of KSM should have proved the its importance. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 2/2/2002] Although the possible presence of KSM at this summit is highly disputed by US officials, one counterterrorism expert will testify before the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he has access to transcripts of KSM’s interrogations since his capture, and that KSM has admitted leading this summit and told the attendees about a planes as weapons plot targeting the US (see July 9, 2003). [NEWSWEEK, 7/9/2003; NEW YORK POST, 7/10/2003] Many other media reports identify him there as well. [INDEPENDENT, 6/6/2002; CNN, 8/30/2002; CNN, 11/7/2002; CANADIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION, 10/29/2003] For instance, according to Newsweek, “Mohammed’s presence would make the intelligence failure of the CIA even greater. It would mean the agency literally watched as the 9/11 scheme was hatched—and had photographs of the attack’s mastermind… doing the plotting.” [NEWSWEEK, 7/9/2003] Hambali - An Indonesian militant known as Hambali, or Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin [BBC, 8/15/2003] , was heavily involved in the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot (see January 6, 1995 and June 1994). [CNN, 3/14/2002; CNN, 8/30/2002] The FBI was aware of who he was and his connections to the Bojinka plot at least by 1999 and identified a photograph of him by that time (see May 23, 1999). He will be arrested by Thai authorities in August 2003 (see August 12, 2003). [CNN, 8/14/2003; CBS NEWS, 8/15/2003] Malaysian officials recognize Hambali from summit surveillance photos, as he is a long-time Malaysian resident. But the US does not tell them of his Bojinka connections so they will not know to arrest him after the summit is over (see Shortly After January 8, 2000). [NEW STRAITS TIMES, 2/10/2002] Yazid Sufaat - Sufaat is a Malaysian who owned the condominium where the summit was held. [NEW YORK TIMES, 1/31/2002; NEWSWEEK, 6/2/2002] A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through Sufaat’s presence at this summit is later missed in September 2000 (see September-October 2000). Sufaat will travel to Afghanistan in June 2001 and be arrested by Malaysian authorities when he returns to Malaysia in late 2001. [AUSTRALIAN, 12/24/2002] Malaysian officials also recognize Sufaat from summit surveillance photos, as he is a long-time Malaysian resident (see Shortly After January 8, 2000). [NEW STRAITS TIMES, 2/10/2002] Fahad Al-Quso - Al-Quso, a top al-Qaeda operative [NEWSWEEK, 9/20/2001] , will be arrested by Yemeni authorities in December 2000 (see Late October-Late November 2000), but the FBI will not be given a chance to fully interrogate him before 9/11. He will escape from prison in 2003. [CNN, 5/15/2003] Tawfiq bin Attash - Better known by his alias “Khallad,” Bin Attash, a “trusted member of bin Laden’s inner circle,” was in charge of bin Laden’s bodyguards, and served as bin Laden’s personal intermediary at least for the USS Cole bombing. [NEWSWEEK, 9/20/2001] He is also thought to be a “mastermind” of that attack. Attash is reportedly planning to be one of the hijackers, but will be unable to get a US visa. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004, PP. 8] US intelligence had been aware of his identity as early as 1995. [US CONGRESS, 9/18/2002] A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin Attash’s presence at this summit will later be missed in January 2001 (see January 4, 2001). Bin Attash had been previously arrested in Yemen for suspected terror ties, but let go (see Summer 1999). [CONTEMPORARY SOUTHEAST ASIA, 12/1/2002] He will be captured in Pakistan by the US in April 2003 (see April 29, 2003). Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - Al-Nashiri is one of al-Qaeda’s top field commanders and operates out of Malaysia while 9/11 is being prepared. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 10/10/2001; GUNARATNA, 2003, PP. 188; GRAHAM AND NUSSBAUM, 2004, PP. 59] He was involved in an arms smuggling plot (see 1997) and the East African embassy bombings (see August 22-25 1998), in which his cousin was martyred (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He also organized the attack against the USS The Sullivans (see January 3, 2000), and will be involved in the attacks against the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the Limburg (see October 6, 2002). He will be arrested in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002. An al-Qaeda operative had identified a photo of al-Nashiri for the FBI in late 1998 (see August 22-25 1998). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 152-3] (Note: in the sources al-Nashiri is referred to by two of his aliases: Muhammad Omar al-Harazi and Al Safani). [CNN, 12/11/2000; CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, 9/6/2006] Ramzi bin al-Shibh - Investigators believe he wanted to be the twentieth hijacker. His presence at the summit may not have been realized until after 9/11, despite the fact that US intelligence had a picture of him next to bin Attash, and had video footage of him. [NEWSWEEK, 11/26/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 7/14/2002; TIME, 9/15/2002; DIE ZEIT (HAMBURG), 10/1/2002; CNN, 11/7/2002] German police have credit card receipts indicating bin al-Shibh is in Malaysia at the same time. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/1/2002] Ulrich Kersten, director of Germany’s federal anticrime agency, the Bundeskriminalamt, will later say, “There are indications that Ramzi bin al-Shibh was in Kuala Lumpur for the meeting.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 8/24/2002] Another account noting he was photographed at the summit further notes that he entered and left Thailand three times in the first three weeks of January 2000. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 10/17/2001] Anonymous Malaysian officials claim he is there, but US officials deny it. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/20/2002] One account says he is recognized at the time of the summit, which makes it hard to understand why he is not tracked back to Germany and the Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and other hijackers. [DER SPIEGEL (HAMBURG), 10/1/2002] Another opportunity to expose the 9/11 plot through bin al-Shibh’s presence at this summit will be missed in June. It appears bin al-Shibh and Almihdhar are directly involved in the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 (see Around September 15-16 and October 10-21, 2000). [GUARDIAN, 10/15/2001; WASHINGTON POST, 7/14/2002; NEWSWEEK, 9/4/2002] Ahmad Hikmat Shakir - A suspected al-Qaeda agent of Iraqi nationality, Shakir is a greeter at Kuala Lumpur airport. He meets Almihdhar there and travels with him to the apartment where the summit is held. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 10/2/2002; NEWSWEEK, 10/7/2002; AUSTRALIAN, 12/24/2002; KNIGHT RIDDER, 6/12/2004] After 9/11, he will be linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Bojinka plot. Jordan will arrest him and let him go after the US says they don’t want to take custody of him (see September 17, 2001). Salem Alhazmi - Alhazmi, a 9/11 hijacker and brother of Nawaf Alhazmi, is possibly at the summit, although very few accounts mention it. [AUSTRALIAN, 12/24/2002] US intelligence intercepts from before the summit indicate that he at least had plans to attend. [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 51 ] Abu Bara al Taizi - A Yemeni al-Qaeda agent, he is reportedly meant to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but will be unable to enter the US due to greater scrutiny for Yemenis. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004, PP. 8] Mohamed al-Khatani - A Saudi, he allegedly will confess to attending the summit while being held in the US Guantanamo prison (see July 2002). He apparently will unsuccessfully attempt to enter the US in August 2001 to join the 9/11 plot (see August 4, 2001). However, al-Khatani will later recant his testimony and say he lied to avoid torture (see October 26, 2006). Others - Unnamed members of the Egyptian-based Islamic Jihad are also said to have been at the summit. [COX NEWS SERVICE, 10/21/2001] Islamic Jihad merged with al-Qaeda in February 1998. [ABC NEWS, 11/17/2001] However, according to the Wall Street Journal, bin Attash and al-Quso are suspected of being Islamic Jihad members at one point, so this may just be a reference to them. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/8/2001] Entity Tags: Ulrich Kersten, Fahad al-Quso, Al-Qaeda, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Bara al Taizi, Hambali, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, Islamic Jihad, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash, Yazid Sufaat, Khalid Almihdhar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Salem Alhazmi, Mohamed al-Khatani, Nawaf Alhazmi, Malaysian Secret Service Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
March 2000: German Intelligence Places Two Hijacker Associates on a German Watch List German intelligence places two members of the Hamburg cell, Mounir El Motassadeq and Said Bahaji, on a German watch list. The two men, associates of 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 ] Motassadeq was first investigated by German authorities in 1998 (see August 1998) and Bahaji may have recently traveled to Afghanistan with some associates using a route monitored by European intelligence agencies (see Late November-Early December 1999). Entity Tags: Said Bahaji, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Mounir El Motassadeq Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
April-May 2000: Hijacker Tells Librarian About Major Attack in US Around this time hijacker Marwan Alshehhi boasts of planning an attack to a Hamburg librarian. He says, “There will be thousands of dead. You will think of me.” He also specifically mentions the WTC. [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 8/29/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 8/29/2002] “You will see,” Alshehhi adds. “In America something is going to happen. There will be many people killed.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/10/2002] The Guardian notes that this “demonstrates that the members of the Hamburg cell were not quite as careful to keep secret their plans as had previously been thought. In addition, it appears to bury for good the theory that the pilots were informed of their targets only hours before they took off. Not least, though, Marwan Alshehhi’s boast provides a key element for the reconstruction of the plot—a date by which the terrorists had decided on their target.” [GUARDIAN, 8/30/2002] Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
May 22, 2000: German Intelligence Notices Hijackers’ Associate Traveling Monitored Route 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). Motassadeq, an associate of Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, flies from Hamburg to Karachi, Pakistan, via Istanbul. At least two of the hijackers had 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 not clear whether they pick up the travel by 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 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] Entity Tags: Turkish intelligence, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Mounir El Motassadeq Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
October-November 2000: Suspected 9/11 Hijacker Associates Meet with Prominent Muslim Activist in US
Agus Budiman. [Source: Der Spiegel] Mohammed bin Nasser Belfas and Agus Budiman, two Muslims living in Hamburg, Germany, travel to the US where they stay for two months. During this period, they meet with Abdurahman Alamoudi, a prominent Muslim activist whom the US has linked to Osama bin Laden. [NEWSWEEK, 10/1/2003] In 1994, the FBI learned that bin Laden sent Alamoudi money, which he then passed on to Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, known as the “blind sheikh” (see Shortly After March 1994). [MSNBC, 10/23/2003] Belfas will later say the purpose behind their meetings with Alamoudi was to request some favors. For instance, at Belfas’s request, Alamoudi writes a letter of recommendation for him. But after 9/11, investigators will suspect that the two were part of the Hamburg cell and that their trip to the US was related to the 9/11 attacks, for both Belfas and Budiman have connections to Mohamed Atta and other al-Qaeda operatives. [NEWSWEEK, 10/1/2003] In 1998, Belfas shared an apartment with Ramzi bin al-Shibh, led a prayer group attended by Atta and others (see 1999), and worked in a computer warehouse packing boxes with Atta, bin al-Shibh, and Marwan Alshehhi. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/1/2002] Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohammed bin Nasser Belfas, Marwan Alshehhi, Agus Budiman, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Mohamed Atta Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
August 2001: CIA Veteran David Edger Joins University of Oklahoma
The Norman Transcript (Feb 12, 2002). [Source: Norman Transcript] David Edger, a high-ranking CIA officer who was previously station chief in Berlin, Germany (see May 1997), joins the political science department of the University of Oklahoma at Norman as a visiting scholar. Appointment Arranged by CIA Director's Mentor - An announcement says that the appointment was arranged by the university’s president David Boren: “David Edger has joined us as a CIA officer in residence. Mr. Edger most recently was stationed at the US Embassy in Berlin as minister-counselor for coordination, where he directed both military and civilian US intelligence programs in Germany. During the two-year assignment, Mr. Edger will teach courses related to the US intelligence community and foreign policy. President David Boren arranged for his participation at OU.” [NEWSLETTER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA, 9/2001] David Boren is a former Democratic senator who headed the Senate’s intelligence committee for many years. There, Boren acted as mentor to CIA Director George Tenet, who was a Senate staffer before joining the CIA. They have maintained a close relationship: Boren and Tenet were having breakfast together in Washington on the morning of 9/11 (see (Before 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Involved in Surveillance of Hamburg Cell - Edger’s appointment may have been connected to his previous duties in Germany, where, during the years 1997-2001, he directed CIA surveillance and infiltration attempts against the Hamburg cell of 9/11 hijackers. A 2002 article in a local newspaper makes clear that Edger, or possibly other intelligence officers, had some inside but incomplete foreknowledge of al-Qaeda’s plans: “Up until his appointment with OU six months ago, Edger’s work with the CIA focused on terrorist groups in Germany. One of the three cells he was tracking included some of the people responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. He said although officers knew members of the cell and some of what they were doing, they had no idea that they would meet in London and go to different parts of the US, where they would learn to fly planes to crash into the World Trade Center. ‘In that case, we failed,’ Edger said.” [NORMAN TRANSCRIPT (OKLAHOMA), 2/12/2002] Several 9/11 Links to Oklahoma - Numerous 9/11 figures have connections to Oklahoma, and specifically to OU’s campus in Norman, including Zacarias Moussaoui (see Between February 23, 2001 and June 2001, February 23-June 2001, and July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001), his associate Hussein al-Attas (see August 10-11, 2001), Nick Berg (see Autumn 1999), and lead hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi who reportedly sought flight training at the nearby Airman Flight School (see July 2-3, 2000 and August 1, 2001). Post-9/11 Comments - After 9/11, Edger will make numerous public statements supporting the war on terror and the Iraq War. The Tulsa World will report in October, 2001: “‘Americans are looking for simple assurances, hoping human intelligence can warn of the next attack,’ said Dr. David Edger, a specialist in espionage operations, paramilitary activities and counter-terrorism. ‘Getting that human intelligence is not simple. Great patience is required, and classic spy recruitment does not work in such hostile environments,’ said Edger, who served 39 years in the CIA. ‘The war will last many years, and we will never be sure when it ends,’ Edger predicted.” [TULSA WORLD (OKLAHOMA), 10/12/2001; TULSA WORLD (OKLAHOMA), 11/9/2001; TULSA WORLD (OKLAHOMA), 3/25/2002; NORMAN TRANSCRIPT (OKLAHOMA), 10/11/2006] Entity Tags: David Edger, University of Oklahoma, Airman Flight School, David Boren Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
(9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Hijackers Take over Flight 93 The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the four hijackers take over Flight 93 at 9:28 a.m., one minute after the plane’s crew made their last communication with the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, the hijackers “wielded knives (reported by at least five callers); engaged in violence, including stabbing (reported by at least four callers and indicated by the sounds of the cockpit struggle transmitted over the radio); relocated the passengers to the back of the plane (reported by at least two callers); threatened use of a bomb, either real or fake (reported by at least three callers); and engaged in deception about their intentions (as indicated by the hijacker’s radio transmission received by FAA air traffic control).” Flight 93 suddenly drops 685 feet in the space of just 30 seconds, and the Cleveland Center hears two suspicious radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will add, “While this appears to show the exact time that the hijackers invaded the cockpit, we have found no conclusive evidence to indicate precisely when the terrorists took over the main cabin or moved passengers seated in the first-class cabin back to coach.” The four hijackers waited about 46 minutes after takeoff before beginning their takeover of Flight 93. [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 38-39 ] Yet, the Commission claims, when alleged hijacker ringleader Mohamed Atta met with fellow Hamburg cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain about two months earlier (see July 8-19, 2001), he’d said that the “best time [for the hijackers] to storm the cockpit would be about 10-15 minutes after takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 245] The Commission will state, “We were unable to determine why [the Flight 93 hijackers] waited so long.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 8/26/2004, PP. 39 ] The long wait is particularly notable, considering that Flight 93 had already been significantly delayed before taking off from Newark Airport (see 8:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). In fact, in an early timeline, Pentagon officials will state the hijacking occurred significantly earlier, at around 9:16, and in 2003, NORAD officials repeat this claim (see 9:16 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 COMMISSION, 5/23/2003] Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Shortly After September 11, 2001: Investigators Find Links between Abu Qatada, Madrid Cell, and 9/11 Hijacker Cell in Hamburg In searches conducted shortly after the 9/11 attacks, investigators discover direct links between the 9/11 hijacker cell in Hamburg and the Madrid al-Qaeda cell led by Barakat Yarkas. German police find Yarkas’s phone number in papers belong to 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. His number is also found in the diary of Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/28/2001; IRUJO, 2005, PP. 150-153] Investigators also find many videos of sermons by Abu Qatada in the apartment where Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell used to live. Qatada is already closely linked to Yarkas and his Madrid cell (see 1995-February 2001). [GUARDIAN, 8/11/2005] Since Spanish intelligence had been monitoring Yarkas’s call since 1995 (see 1995 and After), it is unknown if they ever monitored a call between Yarkas and Atta or Bahaji. However, no such calls will be mentioned in subsequent trials in Spain. The Spanish did monitor numerous calls between Yarkas and Hamburg associates Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). For years, the Spanish have merely been monitoring Yarkas’s cell. But after discovering these links, the decision is made to shut the cell down. Yarkas and others are arrested in November 2001 (see November 13, 2001). [IRUJO, 2005, PP. 162-163] Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Said Bahaji, Abu Qatada, Barakat Yarkas Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
October 27-November 2001: Zammar Arrested in Morocco Suspected al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar travels from Germany to Morocco. Not long after, perhaps in November, he is arrested by Moroccan police with US assistance. Although he is a German citizen and under investigation by Germany, German intelligence remain unaware of his arrest, and only learn about it from the newspapers in June 2002. He is sent to Syria, where there are formal charges against him (see December 2001). Zammar reportedly now claims he recruited Mohamed Atta and others into the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. [WASHINGTON POST, 6/19/2002] It is widely suspected that the US arranged for Zammar to be sent to Syria so that he could be more thoroughly interrogated using torture. The Germans are angry that the US has been submitting questions for Zammar and learning answers from Syria, but have not informed Germany of what they have learned [DAILY TELEGRAPH, 6/20/2002; CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 7/26/2002] Entity Tags: Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Germany, Mohamed Atta, Syria Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline
Early 2002-January 2003: Syrian Government Helps US with Al-Qaeda Intelligence until US Cuts Off Relationship Because of Iraq War Priority By early 2002, Syria emerges as one of the CIA’s most effective intelligence sources on al-Qaeda. Syria is one of seven countries on a State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. It has been on that list since 1979, mostly because of its support for Hezbollah combating Israel. But Syria is also an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda has many connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, especially its Syrian branch. According to journalist Seymour Hersh in New Yorker magazine, “The Syrians had compiled hundreds of files on al-Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated—and others who wanted to participate—in the September 11th attacks. Syria also penetrated al-Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe.” It appears Syrian intelligence may even have penetrated the Hamburg cell tied to the 9/11 plot, as hijacker Mohamed Atta and other cell members, such as Mohammed Haydar Zammar, occasionally worked at a German firm called Tatex Trading, which was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). For a time, the Syrians give much of what they know to the CIA and FBI. A former State Department official says, “Up through January of 2003, the cooperation was top-notch. Then we were going to do Iraq, and some people in the [Bush] administration got heavy-handed. They wanted Syria to get involved in operational stuff having nothing to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with Iraq. It was something Washington wanted from the Syrians, and they didn’t want to do it.” Hersh reports, “The collapse of the liaison relationship has left many CIA operatives especially frustrated. ‘The guys are unbelievably pissed that we’re blowing this away,’ a former high-level intelligence official told me. ‘There was a great channel… The Syrians were a lot more willing to help us, but they’—[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and his colleagues—“want to go in [Syria after the Iraq war].’” [NEW YORKER, 7/18/2003] Entity Tags: Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood, Central Intelligence Agency, Syria, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
September 10, 2002-June 2003: Germans Begin, Then Cancel, Investigation into Company with Ties to Hamburg Cell and Syrian Intelligence
Tatex logo. [Source: Tatex] On September 10, 2002, German police raid the Tatex Trading company, a small textile business located just outside of Hamburg. According to Newsweek, German authorities has been “keeping a close watch on the company… for years.” Germans begin preparing a case against the company and the US prepares to freeze the company’s assets. But by June 2003, the investigation is closed and no action is taken by the US or Germany. Newsweek will claim that “Some US and German officials suggest that both countries decided not to proceed with legal action against Tatex to avoid antagonizing the government of Syria.” [DEUTSCHE PRESSE-AGENTUR (HAMBURG), 9/7/2003; NEWSWEEK, 1/18/2004] The New Yorker will claim “Tatex was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence in the eighties; one of its shareholders was Mohammed Majed Said, who ran the Syrian intelligence directorate from 1987 to 1994.” [NEW YORKER, 7/18/2003] Some believe the Syrians infiltrated the company to spy on extremist Syrian exiles in Hamburg, while others believe Syrians were using the company as a front to illegally acquire high-tech equipment from the West. It is claimed that the investigation into Tatex is dropped because Syria has been cooperative with Germany and the US in other areas. [NEWSWEEK, 1/18/2004] Abdul-Matin Tatari, the Syrian in charge of Tatex, admits that his company had employed Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli, both of whom have been tied to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Further, the Chicago Tribune claims, “Investigators also say Mohamed Atta himself worked for a time at Tatex, something Tatari vehemently denies. But Tatari admits that one of his sons signed Atta’s petition to establish an Islamic ‘study group’ at Hamburg’s Technical University that served as a rendezvous for the hijackers and their supporters.” Tatari’s son took trips with Mounir El Motassadeq, who also has been tied to the Hamburg cell. Tatari, Zammar, Darkazanli, and Atta all are believed to be members of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a secret society banned in Egypt. [CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/1/2002] Entity Tags: Tatex Trading company, Mohammed Majed Said, Mounir El Motassadeq, Mamoun Darkazanli, Germany, Abdul-Matin Tatari, Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Haydar Zammar Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
September 25, 2002: FBI Director Mueller Denies Moussaoui Leads Could Have Prevented 9/11 In an interview with CBS, FBI Director Robert Mueller states, “I can tell you there are things I wish we had done differently. That there are things we should have followed up on. But the bottom line is I do not believe that we would have been able to prevent 9/11.” Speaking about the Zacarias Moussaoui case, he says, “That took us several months, to follow that lead, and it also required the full support of the German authorities, and it would have been very, I think impossible to have followed that particular lead in the days between the time in which Moussaoui was detained and September 11th.” [CBS NEWS, 9/25/2002] This negativism is in sharp contrast to a previous statement he made on May 21, 2002 (see May 21, 2002), as well as the opinion of many rank and file FBI officers, some of whom have made a chart showing how all the hijackers could have been caught if certain leads had been followed. [NEWSWEEK, 6/2/2002] Mueller’s opinion on the Moussaoui case is contradicted by many, including FBI agents working on that case. [TIME, 5/21/2002] The media also does not agree. For instance the Independent suggested information on Moussaoui’s computer “might have been enough to expose the Hamburg cell, which investigators believe was the key planning unit for 11 September.” [INDEPENDENT, 12/11/2001] Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Zacarias Moussaoui Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Late 2002: Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh Allegedly Tortured in Jordan
Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: Uli Deck / Agence France-Presse] Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key member of al-Qaeda’s Hamburg cell, is allegedly flown to Jordan and tortured there. Bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan on September 11, 2002, and held by US forces (see September 11, 2002). According to a 2008 report by the watchdog group Human Rights Watch, the US takes bin al-Shibh to the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and then flies him to Jordan. A former detainee in a secret prison run by Jordanian intelligence will later tell Human Rights Watch that he was held in a cell next to bin al-Shibh in late 2002. He says he was able to briefly talk to bin al-Shibh, and bin al-Shibh told him that he had been tortured while in Jordanian custody. He said he had suffered electric shocks, forced nakedness, sleep deprivation, and being made to sit on sticks and bottles in sexually humiliating ways. [HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, 4/8/2008] The Washington Post will similarly report in late 2007, “Although hard evidence is elusive, some former inmates have reported being detained in the same wing as Ramzi Bin al-Shibh… said Abdulkareem al-Shureidah, an Amman lawyer. “He was detained in Jordanian jails, definitely.” [WASHINGTON POST, 12/1/2007] Bin al-Shibh will be transferred out of CIA custody into the Guantanamo prison in 2006, but exactly where he was held between 2002 and 2006 remains unclear (see September 2-3, 2006). Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline
February 25, 2003: More 9/11 Terrorist Plotters Believed to Be in Germany The Chicago Tribune reveals that there appear to be many more members of Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg cell than previously reported. While many members of the cell died in the attacks or fled Germany just prior to 9/11, up to a dozen suspected of belonging to the Hamburg cell stayed behind, apparently hoping to avoid government scrutiny. Many of their names have not yet been revealed. In some cases, investigators still do not know the names. For instance, phone records show that someone using the alias Karl Herweg was in close communication with the Hamburg cell and Zacarias Moussaoui, but Herweg’s real identity is not known. [CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 2/25/2003] Entity Tags: Karl Herweg, Zacarias Moussaoui Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
June 16, 2004: 9/11 Commission Gives Account of Prisoner Interrogations The 9/11 Commission releases a new report on how the 9/11 plot developed. Most of their information appears to come from interrogations of prisoners Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell. In this account, the idea for the attacks appears to have originated with KSM. In mid-1996, he met bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan. He presented several ideas for attacking the US, including a version of the 9/11 plot using ten planes (presumably an update of Operation Bojinka’s second phase plot (see February-Early May 1995)). Bin Laden does not commit himself. In 1999, bin Laden approves a scaled-back version of the idea, and provides four operatives to carry it out: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khallad bin Attash, and Abu Bara al Taizi. Attash and al Taizi drop out when they fail to get US visas. Alhazmi and Almihdhar prove to be incompetent pilots, but the recruitment of Mohamed Atta and the others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell solves that problem. Bin Laden wants the attacks to take place between May and July 2001, but the attacks are ultimately delayed until September. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004] However, information such as these accounts resulting from prisoner interrogations is seriously doubted by some experts, because it appears they only began cooperating after being coerced or tortured. For instance, it is said that KSM was “waterboarded,” a technique in which his head is pushed under water until he nearly drowns. Information gained under such duress often is unreliable. Additionally, there is a serious risk that the prisoners might try to intentionally deceive. [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/17/2004] For instance, one CIA report of his interrogations is called, “Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s Threat Reporting—Precious Truths, Surrounded by a Bodyguard of Lies.” [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 6/23/2004] The Commission itself expresses worry that KSM could be trying to exaggerate the role of bin Laden in the plot to boost bin Laden’s reputation in the Muslim world. [9/11 COMMISSION, 6/16/2004] Most of what these prisoners have said is uncorroborated from other sources. [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/17/2004] In 2007, it will be alleged that as much as 90 percent of KSM’s interrogation could be inaccurate, and that he has recanted some of his confessions (see August 6, 2007). Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, 9/11 Commission, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
March 8, 2005: 9/11 Commission Investigator Frustrates German Efforts to Convict Hijacker Associate El Motassadeq Dietrich Snell, the 9/11 Commission’s lead investigator into the origins and role of the Hamburg cell in the 9/11 plot, testifies in the German retrial of Mounir El Motassadeq. Snell tells a panel of judges that the 9/11 Commission concluded the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell members such as Mohamed Atta did not develop the idea of the 9/11 plot on their own, but were recruited by bin Laden during a visit to Afghanistan in late 1999. He claims, “Ultimately, we did not arrive at the conclusion that there was solid evidence of any contact” between the Hamburg cell members and al-Qaeda leaders about the plot before the Hamburg group’s trip to Afghanistan. These findings contradict the prosecutor’s case against Motassadeq and also run counter to media accounts suggesting the Hamburg cell was involved in the plot before that time. According to German law, prosecutors must prove that important elements of the conspiracy took place in Germany in order to get a conviction. Snell largely fails to explain how the Commission came to that conclusion, saying the sources remain classified. [WASHINGTON POST, 3/9/2005] Entity Tags: Mounir El Motassadeq, Osama bin Laden, 9/11 Commission, Al-Qaeda, Dietrich Snell, Mohamed Atta Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
April 22, 2005: Moussaoui Pleads Guilty to All Charges Against Him, But Denies Role in 9/11 Plot
Zacarias Moussaoui. [Source: Sherburne County Sheriffs Office] In an unexpected move, Zacarias Moussaoui pleads guilty to all six terrorism conspiracy charges against him. Moussaoui had been arrested weeks before 9/11, and was formally charged in December 2001 for his role in the 9/11 plot. He says it is “absolutely correct” that he is guilty of the charges: conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries; to commit aircraft piracy; to destroy aircraft; to use weapons of mass destruction; to murder US government employees; and to destroy US government property. However, he says, “I was not part of 9/11,” but rather claims he was part of a “broader conspiracy” aimed at post-9/11 attacks. He says he was personally directed by bin Laden to pilot a 747 and “strike the White House” with it, but as part of a “different conspiracy than 9/11.” His plea means there will be no trial to determine guilt, but there will still be a trial to determine his sentencing, which could be as severe as the death penalty. He promises to fight in the sentencing phase, stating he doesn’t deserve death because he was not directly connected to the 9/11 plot. [CNN, 4/23/2005; WASHINGTON POST, 4/23/2005] A CNN legal analyst notes that Moussaoui’s guilty plea “makes little sense.” Moussaoui may have actually had a chance to be proven not guilty because of the many thorny legal issues his case raises (two suspected members of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell have been found not guilty in German courts because they have not been allowed access to testimony from al-Qaeda prisoners who might exonerate them, and Moussaoui so far has been denied access to those same prisoners (see March 22, 2005)). It is pointed out that Moussaoui gave a guilty plea without “any promise of leniency in exchange for his plea,” and that he is unlikely to gain any sympathetic advantage from it in the death penalty trial. CNN’s analyst notes that the statements in his plea “suggest that Moussaoui [mistakenly] thought he had tricked the prosecution.” Doubts still remain whether Moussaoui is fully mentally sound and capable of legally defending himself. [CNN, 4/28/2005] A counterterrorism expert for RAND Corporation says of Moussaoui’s rather confusing statements, “If we thought by the end of the day we would find the holy grail as to exactly what the genesis of 9/11 was and what Moussaoui’s role in it was, we have been sorely disappointed. This contradiction in his behavior raises more questions than it answers.” The Washington Post notes that, “It remains uncertain” whether the death penalty trial “will divulge much new information about the plot.” [WASHINGTON POST, 4/23/2005] Entity Tags: Zacarias Moussaoui, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
August 19, 2005: Hijacker Associate Motassadeq Convicted for Al-Qaeda Membership but Not for Role in 9/11 Plot Mounir El Motassadeq is convicted in Germany of belonging to a terrorist organization and sentenced to seven years in prison. However, he is acquitted of involvement in the 9/11 plot. He had previously been convicted of such involvement (see February 18, 2003), only to have the ruling overturned later (see March 3, 2004). The verdict was overturned when a judge ruled he was unfairly denied testimony for al-Qaeda suspects in US custody such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh. For the retrial, the US provided summaries from the interrogation of bin al-Shibh and other suspects, but did not make full reports available to the court or allow the prisoners to appear in person for cross-examination. The judge presiding over the retrial criticized the US for failing to give more evidence, saying, “How are we supposed to do justice to our task when important documents are withheld from us?” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 8/19/2005] A former roommate of El Motassadeq testified that Mohamed Atta and bin al-Shibh regularly visited Motassadeq, and he once overheard him say: “We are going to something big. He said, ‘The Jews will burn; we will dance on their graves.’” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/5/2005] However, a 9/11 Commission investigator gave testimony that was very damaging to the prosecution’s argument that the Hamburg cell had a significant role in preparing the plot while in Germany (see March 8, 2005). Entity Tags: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline