'Bavarian Taliban' Video The Smiling Suicide Bomber

Cüneyt Ciftci, a young man from Bavaria, blew himself up outside a government building in Afghanistan, killing two US soldiers and two Afghanis. SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained a video documenting the final minutes in the life of the first German-born suicide bomber.

By in Kabul


It's the perpetual grin that is most disturbing. The young man looks directly into the camera. He seems cheerful in his small cap and white shalwar kameez, the traditional Afghan dress. He smiles as he hoists the heavy bags of chemicals on to his shoulders. Grinning, he points skyward to Allah.

His permanent smile comes despite his knowledge -- or perhaps precisely because of it -- that he will soon die. It's impossible to hear what he is saying. Flowery suras from the Koran are dubbed over his voice. "How lucky you are, that death brings you the sunrise," sings a man's voice. "That you go to the front, that you burn in the name of Islam." Then the young man says goodbye to his companions. Before he drives off, he kneels down in the dust and prays one last time.

The man is the 28-year-old German-born Turkish citizen Cüneyt Ciftci, who was born in the Bavarian town of Freising. Until April 2, 2007 he lived together with his family in Ansbach. The images come from a 45-minute DVD which SPIEGEL ONLINE obtained this week in Afghanistan from the media wing of the Taliban. SPIEGEL ONLINE was first offered the film, "Source of the Jihad," in Pakistan. A middleman with contacts to the Taliban wanted to sell it for a five-figure US dollar sum.

The actual makers of the video, however, were not interested in money. All they wanted was the price of a courier to Kabul. The only important thing was the message, namely that Cüneyt Ciftci blew himself up on March 3 in front of the Sabari District Center in the eastern Afghanistan province of Khost. And that it was a jihadi from Germany who claimed the lives of the 23-year-old US soldier Stephen Koch, his 22-year-old comrade Robert Rapp and two Afghans.

The filmmakers recorded the attack. They positioned themselves with two cameras around the District Center and waited for the blue Toyota Dyna light truck with Ciftci at the wheel. Calmly, without the wild zooms and wobbles common to terrorist videos, they waited for the big bang. When the huge cloud of smoke finally rose and the explosion was heard, they yelled: "Allahu Akbar -- God is great!"

Anyone who views the pictures can see why the bombers could not yet be identified from their body parts or DNA. The explosion was enormous. The editors of the Web site of the radical Islamist group Islamic Jihad Union, who first reported the suicide attack on March 6, bragged about 4.5 tons of explosives. That amount seems excessive. Nevertheless, the video images show that the US military actually escaped relatively lightly. The mushroom cloud from the explosion rose a good 80 meters into the sky.

But the Taliban's propaganda experts weren't just interested in the March 3 explosion in Khost. The three days immediately prior to the attack were documented as well. In one scene, a painstakingly accurate sketch of the American building to be targeted lies on the floor. Huddled around it are a number of men whispering inaudibly, their faces turned away from the camera. A line was drawn indicating the route to be taken by the truck bomb -- a perfectly planned act of terror.

Later, one sees the white sacks of chemicals used to manufacture the bomb, along with a trigger mechanism, including a long black cable that comes to an end right next to the driver's seat. And once again, there is an image of Ciftci smiling into the camera, this time sitting behind the wheel of the truck. Just a short time later, he would push the button -- and, at four minutes past four on that Monday afternoon, the target would lie in ruins.

The images show the last mission of an Islamist from the German state of Bavaria -- the end of a journey which took him from the quiet village of Ansbach to the front in Afghanistan. Cüneyt Ciftci found his way into Islamist circles in Germany via mosques in both Bavaria and the Baden-Württemberg town of Ulm before joining the jihad with the Taliban. Now, the smiling jihadi has become a recent entry into the eternal list of martyrs.

But the video is more than just a flowery farewell. It appears that the Taliban deliberately hand-picked the Turkish youth from Germany to appear in a recruiting video. Terrorist investigators already suspect that Ciftci was intended to be an example for a new generation of jihadis.

Although a number of Islamist terror plots have been hatched in Germany -- the most famous of which being the 9/11 attacks, which were partly planned by a terror cell led by Mohamed Atta in Hamburg -- Ciftci is the first suicide bomber to have been born and raised in Germany. That fact is making German security and intelligence authorities very worried. The DVD shows exactly what young radical Islamists, of which hundreds are known in Germany, can become within a short period of time.

Ciftci was already under suspicion due to his contacts to the Sauerland terror cell, whose three members were arrested in September 2007. He tried again and again to get German papers, something the police found suspicious. When the authorities asked him to come in for questioning in early April 2007, he feared he would be arrested and took off with his family. It was presumably Adem Y., also a member of the Sauerland cell, who told him at the time how to travel through Syria and Iran to Pakistan, where his destination was an Islamic Jihad Union terror camp.

From Pakistan, Ciftci must have at some point made it to the Taliban in Afghanistan. The propaganda DVD also features a recent speech by the Taliban legend Jalaluddin Haqqani. For years, it was unclear what had happened to Haqqani, a top Taliban commander.

The video marks something of a comeback for him. "With God's help, the United States will leave Afghanistan with their heads hung in shame," a confident Haqqani announces. He leaves no doubt as to the determination of jihadis like Ciftci. "One should not hurry in war," he says. "We have a lot of patience."

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