Top intelligence official disputes9/11 planned in Germany
9 November 2004 , HAMBURG - Germany's top domestic intelligence official has disputed claims that the 11 September 2001 attacks were essentially devised and prepared in Germany. Echoing a videotaped statement two weeks ago by al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Heinz Fromm told a Hamburg court on Tuesday that the attacks were conceived in Afghanistan, not among a group of Arab students living in Hamburg.
9 November 2004
HAMBURG - Germany's top domestic intelligence official has disputed claims that the 11 September 2001 attacks were essentially devised and prepared in Germany.
Echoing a videotaped statement two weeks ago by al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Heinz Fromm told a Hamburg court on Tuesday that the attacks were conceived in Afghanistan, not among a group of Arab students living in Hamburg.
The court is at present re-trying Mounir al-Motassadeq for his role in the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington.
Similar testimony by Fromm, 56, who heads the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, was crucial in the February acquittal of another alleged plotter, Abdel-Ghani Mzoudi, who was also charged with membership in a terrorist organization.
Legal experts say German law precludes a conviction for membership in any foreign-based group.
The prosecution contends that eight students in Hamburg had by spring 1999 devised the idea of hijacking airliners and using them as suicide bombers, then approached bin Laden for assistance.
But Fromm said the students, led by an Egyptian student, Mohammed Atta, were recruited towards the end of 1999 in Afghanistan for the task: "This group was prepared to make its contribution to the jihad, but it was not till they went to Afghanistan that they had an aim."
He said those assigned to fly the planes had not begun pilot training till after their trips to Afghanistan.
Fromm added that the accused, Motassadeq, had been under surveillance by German counter-terrorism agents before 2001. They suspected he was one of a group associated with Mamoun Darkazanli, a Hamburg-based, Syrian-born businessman awaiting extradition to Spain.
Taps on Darkazanli's phone had turned up the forename "Mounir", and "routine" surveillance began in 1999. No evidence was found that Motassadeq was involved in any kind of attack plot.
The official said agents were also aware of the Atta-led cell before the 11 September attacks, with the forenames of the various pilots picked up out of tapped phone calls. However it had not been possible to match these names with persons.
There had been no indication in those calls of the 11 September plot.
In 2003 Motassadeq was sent to jail for 15 years for assisting more than 3,000 murders and being a member of a terrorist group. The conviction was quashed on appeal and a new trial ordered. Prosecutors are meanwhile appealing against the Mzoudi acquittal.
The Hamburg state superior court is later to watch a videotape made by bin Laden and broadcast on the Arabic TV channel al-Jazeera at the end of last month.
In the tape, bin Laden confirmed several key findings of investigations into the attacks, including stating that 19 men were involved and that their overall commander had been Mohammed Atta.
Motassadeq has sought to portray himself as ignorant of Atta's mission despite his close friendship with Atta and prayer meetings.
Subject: German news