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A Mosque is Closed in Germany

The mosque served as a meeting ground for Islamist extremists and terrorists.

6:30 AM, Aug 12, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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If U.S. authorities “repeatedly produced intelligence” on the pair prior to September 11, then why was nothing done? Again, we turn to the Joint Inquiry’s report. We learn that German authorities were less than cooperative.

“Considerable pressure was placed on foreign authorities in the years leading up to the September 11 attacks to target Darkazanli, Zammar, and other radicals,” the Joint Inquiry found. In fact, the “Joint Inquiry reviewed numerous documents describing efforts to pressure [REDACTED] authorities to act” but “these efforts were largely unsuccessful.”

It does not take much reading between the lines to figure out that the “foreign authorities” in question were the Germans. The very next paragraph reads:

“Significant legal barriers restricted Germany’s ability to target Islamic fundamentalism. Before September 11, it was not illegal in Germany to be a member of a foreign terrorist organization, to raise funds for terrorists, or plan a terrorist act outside German territory. …A legal privilege also dramatically restricted the government’s ability to investigate religious groups. …The German government apparently did not consider Islamic groups a threat and were unwilling to devote significant investigative resources to this target.”

Buried in this paragraph, the Joint Inquiry noted that German “law has since been changed.” With respect to the September 11 attacks, it was too little, too late. The Hamburg cell could plot the deadliest terrorist attack in history from German soil and, according to German law at the time, this was not illegal.

Incredibly, German law would interfere with the prosecution of Mamoun Darkazanli once again after the September 11 attacks. Spanish officials launched their own investigations into al Qaeda’s operations in Europe. Unsurprisingly, they found that Darkazanli was a major player. Spanish authorities found that Darkazanli was closely tied to Imad Yarkas, the head of al Qaeda’s presence in Spain and one of the top al Qaeda leaders in all of Europe prior to his arrest and conviction. They also found that Darkazanli had wired funds to Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, one of al Qaeda’s chief ideologues. Darkazanli was so high up in al Qaeda that Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon deemed him al Qaeda’s “chief financier” and “permanent interlocutor and assistant” to Osama bin Laden in Europe.

Spain indicted Darkazanli for his al Qaeda role and wanted to try him. The Germans initially detained Darkazanli while he awaited extradition. Ultimately, the German high court determined that the EU arrest warrant issued by Spain contravened the German constitution. There would be no trial in Spain.

Darkazanli was set free.

Spanish officials and the FBI learned something else about Darkazanli. The Joint Inquiry explains:   

“After September 11, the FBI discovered that Darkazanli traveled to Spain in the summer of 2001 at approximately the same time that [lead hijacker Mohamed] Atta was there. It is possible that Darkazanli and Atta met with Yarkas, who may have had advance knowledge of the September 11 attacks. Spanish authorities intercepted a call to Yarkas on August 27, in which he was told, “we have entered the field of aviation and we have even slit the throat of the bird.” The FBI speculates that the “bird” represented the bald eagle, symbol of the United States. Yarkas, who was arrested by the Spanish on November 13, 2001, has met at least twice with Bin Ladin. A Spanish indictment alleges that he had contacts with Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh.”

The meeting referenced above remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the September 11 attacks. Ramzi Binalshibh, the point man for the September 11 attacks, met Atta in Spain in July 2001. The meeting is remarkable, mainly because Atta had to leave the U.S. at a key juncture in the 9/11 plot – just two months before his day of terror. By leaving American soil, Atta was taking a big risk. It was possible that intelligence officials in Europe or the U.S. would become suspicious of his movements.

Why did Atta have to make this trip? We do not know for sure. And, as it turned out, Atta made the trip back and forth over the Atlantic unnoticed. Who did Atta meet with, exactly? Again, we do not know for certain.

The 9/11 Commission found that while “U.S. authorities have not uncovered evidence that anyone met with Atta or Binalshibh in Spain, Spanish investigators contend that members of the Spanish al Qaeda cell were involved in the July meeting and were connected to the 9/11 attacks.”

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