'Dangerous Preacher' Former Bin Laden Bodyguard Living in Bochum

A man who was part of Osama bin Laden's team of bodyguards has been living in the western German city of Bochum for years. Authorities say the Tunisian man is a "dangerous preacher," but attempts to expel him from the country have so far failed.

"Dead End" sign in the district in Bochum where Sami A. lives.

"Dead End" sign in the district in Bochum where Sami A. lives.

A former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden has been living in the western German city of Bochum for a number of years. Although authorities regard the 36-year-old Tunisian, named only as Sami A., as a security risk, attempts to expel him from the country have failed so far.

"We regard Sami A. as a dangerous preacher," Burkhard Freier, head of the North Rhine-Westphalia branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency, said on Monday.

The Federal Prosecutor's Office had launched an investigation into Sami A. in March 2006 on suspicion of membership of a foreign terrorist group. But the case had to be closed in 2007 "because the investigation couldn't firm up the suspicion with the necessary certainty required for a prosecution," the agency told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

According to reports by the WAZ group of newspapers, Sami A. was partly responsible for radicalizing two of the four members of the so-called Düsseldorf al-Qaida cell, members of which were arrested in April 2011 and put on trial last month for allegedly planning to detonate a bomb in a large crowd.

But a spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office stressed that Sami A. wasn't responsible for recruiting the Düsseldorf cell.

Stuck in Bochum

It is not known when Sami A. was a member of Bin Laden's team of bodyguards. According to WAZ, he has contacts with al-Qaida members around the world, including terrorists believed to have played a leading role in the attacks in the US on Sept. 11, 2001.

Authorities have failed so far to find evidence with which to charge Sami A. But they obtained a court order that has prevented him from leaving Bochum since 2006 and requires him to report to the police every day, a spokesman for North Rhine-Westphalia's Interior Ministry told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

"The authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia have used all judicial means to curtail Sami A's activities as much as possible," state Interior Minister Ralf Jäger said in a written statement.

Sami A. moved to Germany in 1997 to study engineering. The Bochum department for foreign residents threatened to have him expelled from the country in March 2006. But a court stopped the expulsion on the grounds that such a move would be excessive. Sami A. is married to a German woman and they have three children. The city has appealed against the court ruling.

cro -- with wire reports


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