Gulf News

Man who re­cruited 9/11 hi­jack­ers un­der de­ten­tion in Syria’s north

Rare in­ter­view de­tails jour­ney of ex­trem­ist who now lan­guishes in prison cell

- Crime · Middle East News · Incidents · Politics · Warfare and Conflicts · United States of America · ISIS · Afghanistan · Central Intelligence Agency · Germany · Hamburg · Jerusalem · Osama bin Laden · Morocco · Military · Terrorism · Middle East Politics · Qamishli · Hamburg cell

There was noth­ing about the hun­gry, bedrag­gled man who sur­ren­dered at a re­mote desert check­point be­long­ing to the United States’ Kur­dish al­lies this year to sug­gest he had once played a part in one of the big­gest events in US his­tory.

He was limp­ing from in­juries, his beard was mat­ted and teem­ing with lice, and he was flee­ing from Daesh.

Af­ter he iden­ti­fied him­self and checks were run, the con­fir­ma­tion came back. This was Mo­ham­mad Haidar Zam­mar, the man who re­cruited the hi­jack­ers who car­ried out the at­tacks on Septem­ber 11, 2001.

In his first in­ter­view with a US news or­gan­i­sa­tion since 2001, con­ducted in the pres­ence of the Kur­dish guards who are hold­ing him at a prison on the out­skirts of Qamishli, Zam­mar re­counted ■ his ex­traor­di­nary jour­ney. It was one that took him from the ear­li­est days of the Al Qaida camps in Afghanista­n to the bat­tle­fields of Daesh in Syria, via a ren­di­tion sus­pected to have been or­dered by the CIA. Zam­mar, 57, holds Syr­ian and Ger­man cit­i­zen­ship.

Zam­mar’s fam­ily moved to Ger­many when he was 10. He de­vel­oped a cir­cle of fol­low­ers at Ham­burg’s Al Quds mosque.

The first mem­ber of the Ham­burg cell he re­mem­bers meet­ing was Ramzi Bin Al Shibh, a Ye­meni ci­ti­zen now be­ing held in Guan­tanamo Bay on sus­pi­cion of in­volve­ment in the 9/11 plot. Next he met Mo­ham­mad Atta, the hi­jack­ers’ ring­leader. “It was not easy. It took time. They were study­ing at the univer­sity,” he said. “I was telling them ... there is no coun­try in the world that does not have an army to de­fend it­self, while we Mus­lims do not.”

To­wards the end of 1999, Zam­mar made an­other visit to Afghanista­n, over­lap­ping with 9/11 ring leader Mo­ham­mad Atta and other mem­bers of the Ham­burg cell mak­ing their first visit to the coun­try — and car­ry­ing with them their pro­posal to crash planes into Amer­i­can build­ings.

Zam­mar con­tin­ues to deny any fore­knowl­edge of the 9/11 plot. Three months af­ter the at­tacks, he dropped out of sight. While on a visit to Mo­rocco, he was ar­rested and de­ported to Syria. For the next 12 years, he was held in Syria’s Sed­naya prison, where he says he was tor­tured. In 2013, he was freed in a pris­oner swap, and joined Daesh.

Now he lan­guishes in an­other prison cell, along­side about 30 other Daesh pris­on­ers.

 ?? Wash­ing­ton Post ?? Mo­ham­mad Zam­mar
Wash­ing­ton Post Mo­ham­mad Zam­mar

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UAE