Germany's terror mosque
As reports about an alleged al-Qaeda plot in Europe emerge, it is beginning to look as though a mosque in Hamburg where members of the 9/11 plot against the United States gathered once again has served as a crucial al-Qaeda recruiting ground. That raises an obvious question: Have Germany's security services learned nothing in the last decade?
According to accounts by the German website Der Spiegel and CNN.com, a main source of information about the plot is a German citizen of Afghan descent, Ahmed Siddiqui, who was captured in July in Kabul and has been under interrogation ever since at the Bagram airbase.
Sidiqi formerly lived in Hamburg, where he frequented the Taiba mosque -- previously known as the al Quds mosque, where lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and other members of his "Hamburg cell" first gathered. German officials are saying Sidiqi and up to 10 other persons recruited at the mosque left Germany in April, 2009 for Pakistan, where they reached the tribal areas and joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a group with close ties to al-Qaeda.
Sidiqi is said to have told his interrogators that members of the group were planning to participate in commando-style attacks on major landmarks in Berlin and other European cities. The plot reportedly was coordinated by a senior al-Qaeda commander, Younis al Mauritani and had the approval of Osama bin Laden. According to Der Spiegel Sidiqi met Mauritani in the North Waziristan town of Mir Ali.
As it happens, Mir Ali was the site of a U.S. drone attack Monday that Pakistani sources are saying killed five German citizens. It's not yet known if those militants are associates of Sidiqi or involved in the plot he described. But the development raises the question of whether German authorities have done enough to prevent terrorists from gathering and recruiting in places like the Hamburg mosque -- and why they have not been stopped from traveling to Pakistan.
Hamburg authorities shut down the mosque in August -- a few weeks after Sidiqi's arrest. But they failed to prevent him and his group from leaving the country, even though the mosque and its adherents were under surveillance. German sources are saying the mosque had become a magnet for would-be jihadis from around Europe, because of its connections to the 9/11 attack. Its imam, Mamoun Darkazanli, was identified by the 9/11 commission as having links to al-Qaeda financiers, and Spanish authorities have charged him with membership in al Qaeda. Yet he remains at-large and faces no charges in Germany.
Der Spiegel describes German authorities as being "skeptical" and "reserved" about Sidiqi's account, and as downplaying the threat of an attack. Another description word that comes to mind: dangerously complacent.
| October 5, 2010; 10:38 AM ET
Categories: Diehl | Tags: Jackson Diehl
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