Terror Alert: Hamburg Islamist Speaks of Threat of Attacks in Germany

German officials are investigating apparent statements by a Hamburg Islamist recently arrested by US forces in Afghanistan about attack scenarios for terror strikes in Germany and neighboring countries. Ahmad S. is one of a number of Germany-based Islamists thought to have traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in 2009.

Police officers guard the entrance of the Taiba mosque, the Hamburg home to many Islamists that was closed by the city in August. Zoom
AFP

Police officers guard the entrance of the Taiba mosque, the Hamburg home to many Islamists that was closed by the city in August.

Federal authorities in Germany are moving quickly to investigate claims by a German Islamist based in Afghanistan that militant jihadists may be planning attacks in Germany. American security forces detained Ahmad S. in Kabul at the beginning of July on suspicion of terrorism. The 36-year-old, who comes from Hamburg, Germany, has since been interrogated at the US military prison in Baghram.

He is reported to have spoken extensively about attack scenarios in Germany and neighboring European countries, according to information obtained by SPIEGEL. The Americans consider the prisoner to be an important source. S. is believed to be part of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a terror organization that has succeeded in attracting a number of recruits from Germany.

Since his arrest, Germany's Foreign Ministry has also issued several requests calling for German diplomats in Afghanistan to be given access to S., who is a German of Afghan descent. The German Interior Ministry and security authorities are also interested in the prisoner. They believe that S. left Germany at the beginning of March 2009 together with his Indonesian wife, his brother Sulyman and another married couple from Hamburg. They are believed to have flown from Qatar to Peshawar in ordered to travel from there to the Afghan-Pakistani border region.

Homegrown Islamists

Within a short period of time in 2009, a total of around a dozen Hamburg-based Islamists disappeared. German security authorities believe some of them received training in terror camps in the use of weapons and explosives. The group moved in circles close to Hamburg's Taiba mosque, which was recently closed by city officials and had also been visited by members of the terror cell responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

S. apparently also had good contacts within the conspirators' circle. He often drove the father of Mounir el Motassadeq to jail visits with Motassadeq who was sentenced in 2007 to 15 years by a German court for his participation in the 9/11 attacks in the United States. In 2002, S. also went on vacation with Motassadeq's family in Morocco.

Like Motassadeq, S. also worked at the Hamburg airport, where he did cleaning work on aircraft. A further Islamist from Hamburg, the German-Syrian Rami M., was extradited from Pakistan two months after his arrest to Germany in August and is now sitting in a jail in Germany. A judge had ordered him to be obtained on suspicion of membership in a foreign terrorist group and the German federal prosecutor is currently investigating S.

400 Dangerous Islamists in Germany

Over the weekend, the head of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) told a newspaper that his office estimates there are more than 400 Islamists currently in Germany. The core is comprised of 131 people considered to be potential "offenders." BKA President Jörg Ziercke used that term to describe in an interview with Berlin's Tagesspiegel those "we assume could commit politically motivated crimes of considerable scale." Ziercke also estimated that those potentially violent criminals were supported by a further 278 supporters and other "relevant people."

He said the BKA is concerned by the many trips taken by Islamists between Germany and the Afghan-Pakistani border region. He said there was concrete evidence that 70 Islamists from Germany had undergone paramilitary training in terror camps. He said 40 are believed to have participated in combat in Afghanistan. Ziercke noted, however, that German authorities succeeded in stopping a total of 26 potentially violent Islamists from leaving Germany since early 2009.

Ziercke also told the newspaper he did not believe that al-Qaida is still capable of repeating terrorist acts on the scale of those seen in 2001. He noted that al-Qaida leaders like Osama bin Laden and Egypt's Aiman al-Sawahiri are being pursued with great effort and that their movements are severely restricted in their hiding spaces in Pakistan's Waziristan border region. He said he considered al-Qaida in North Africa, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq to be more dangerous.

dsl -- with wires

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