The Obama administration is reportedly still trying to convince Germany to accept Guantánamo detainees who have been cleared for release. An earlier attempt to get Germany to accept some or all of the famous Uighur detainees failed. This was presumably due to German reluctance to offend China, which wants the men repatriated to face terror charges. In the meantime, the German Interior Ministry has made clear that Germany will only accept detainees who have some “connection” to Germany.
Now the Obama administration has proposed two detainees who are supposed to have such a “connection.” According to a report in the German news magazine Focus, one of the two men is a Tunisian who entered Germany illegally in 1996 and applied for asylum under an assumed name. Focus reports that the man lived in Frankfurt and was known to the local police as a drug-dealer and petty criminal. Faced with expulsion, he left Germany for Pakistan in 1999. The man is supposed to have received weapons training at an al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. The German news magazine Der Spiegel identifies him as Rafiq Bin Bashir al-Hami.
The second man is reportedly a Syrian national and he has an even more interesting résumé than the first. Focus reports that he appears in a 2001 al-Qaeda video, in which he presents himself as a candidate for “martyrdom.” Der Spiegel identifies the man as Abd Al Rahim Abdul Rassak Janko. Der Spiegel adds that the video in question was found in Afghanistan in the ruins of the house of al-Qaeda military chief Mohammed Atef and that Janko appears in the video “alongside” none other than Ramzi Binalshibh, one of the principal facilitators of the 9/11 attacks. Der Spiegel cites the information provided by American envoy Daniel Fried to German authorities as the source for its report.
In declassified hearings conducted at Guantánamo, Janko has admitted to having made such a video, but claims to have done so under duress. (For the hearing transcripts, see here, pp. 3620-3633; and here, pp. 23143-23158.) In the declassified portion of Janko’s Guantánamo files, there is no mention, however, of his having had contact with Binalshibh. Janko has also admitted to receiving arms training in an al-Qaeda camp.
It is not clear from the Focus and Spiegel reports what Janko’s connection to Germany is supposed to be. Apart from a statement by the detainee that he once visited the German Embassy (in the United Arab Emirates) to seek asylum, there is no mention of Germany in the declassified portion of Janko’s Guantánamo files. There is, however, a tantalizing allusion to claims that Janko once met with a not-further-identified “Western” intelligence agency. (See here, p. 572.)
Here, in any case, are some other persons with known connections to Germany:
Hamburg cell member, 9/11 plot leader, 9/11 suicide pilot.
According to Germany’s leading daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (January 12, 2003), German domestic intelligence had Atta and other members of the Hamburg cell under observation beginning as early as 1999.
Hamburg cell member and 9/11 suicide pilot.
Hamburg cell member and 9/11 suicide pilot.
Hamburg cell member and chief facilitator of the 9/11 attacks from German soil.
According to a 2003 Spanish indictment, German intelligence had Binalshibh under surveillance as late as July 2001, when he traveled from Hamburg to Tarragona in order to meet with Atta and make final preparations for the 9/11 attacks. (See Juzgado Central de Instruccion no.005, Madrid, Sumario (Proc. Ordinario) 0000035 /2001 E, p. 322.)
Mohammed Haydar Zammar
Suspected of having recruited the members of the Hamburg cell for al-Qaeda and of having run a “travel agency” that organized the trips of al-Qaeda recruits from Germany to Afghanistan.
According to German press reports, the Syrian-born German citizen was under surveillance by German domestic intelligence starting in 1997. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (September 12, 2002 and January 12, 2003), German police questioned Zammar following the 9/11 attacks, but did not arrest him. On October 25, 2001, he was issued a passport by German authorities and two days later he left the country for Morocco. He is currently in prison in his native Syria. (For more on Zammar from the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, see the English translation here.)
On both the U.S. and UN lists of terrorist persons or entities. Darkazanli is a known acquaintance of Hamburg cell members who was suspected of being involved in terrorist financing already before the 9/11 attacks. The 2003 Spanish al-Qaeda indictment identifies him as “the permanent interlocutor and assistant of Osama bin Laden in Germany.” Germany has refused to extradite him and no charges have been brought against him by German prosecutors. He lives in Hamburg.
An open proponent of jihad who is suspected by American and Indonesian intelligence of being the al-Qaeda financier of the 2002 Bali bombings. The bombings killed 202 people. In his 2008 memoir Die Abrechnung [“Settling Accounts”], Michael von Wedel, a former agent of Germany’s Federal Office of Criminal Investigations (BKA), writes that his own investigations confirmed these suspicions. Nonetheless, von Wedel was required by his BKA superiors to arrange for the safe passage of Seyam from Jakarta to Frankfurt in 2003. In Germany, Seyam was released. No charges have been brought against him by German prosecutors. He presently lives with his family in Berlin and receives a reported €2300 per month in social benefits. (For more on Seyam, see my forthcoming review of Michael von Wedel’s Die Abrechnung in Policy Review magazine.)
A known confidante of Osama bin Laden who was convicted by a French court in February of complicity in the April 2002 Djerba synagogue bombing. Some 21 people were killed in the suicide attack. The German convert to Islam was under surveillance by German authorities at the time of bombing. Shortly before the attack, Ganczarski received a telephone call from the bomber asking for his “blessing.” Despite the police surveillance, German authorities brought no charges against Ganczarski and he was allowed to leave the country. He was arrested in 2003 at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport.
Suicide bomber who drove a pick-up truck packed with explosives into an American guard post in Khost province in southeastern Afghanistan in March 2008. Two American soldiers and two Afghans were reported killed in the attack. Ciftci left his native Bavaria for the tribal regions of Pakistan in April 2007. He was recruited by the Taliban-affiliated Islamic Jihad Union (IJU). The IJU is known to have sent numerous other recruits from Germany to Afghanistan. (For more, see my “Germany’s Taliban Trail: From Murat Kurnaz to Cüneyt Ciftci.”)
The above list is only a partial one. Numerous other names could be added to it — names like Said Bahaji, Yehia Yousif, Thomas Fischer, and Selcuk Bilgin. Two other better known names could also be added to it: Murat Kurnaz and Khaled Al-Masri (aka Khaled El-Masri). The two German residents have served as “poster children” for the campaign against America’s erstwhile war on Islamic terror. In fact, however, both men have numerous links to Germany’s Islamic extremist scene, and both have in the past been identified as security risks by German authorities themselves. (On Kurnaz, see here and here; and on Masri, see here.)
What the list shows is that Germany’s role as base for the 9/11 co-conspirators was no accident. Germany has been and indeed remains a thriving center of jihadist activism and recruitment. What the list also shows is that German authorities have displayed remarkable indulgence toward the jihadists in their midst — at least as long as these jihadists were planning or implicated in attacks “merely” on foreign soil and not in Germany itself.
For the Obama administration to be asking Germany of all places to take Guantánamo detainees reveals either disdain for American security interests or a strange obliviousness to the threat that German jihadist networks have abundantly demonstrated that they represent.
It is truly as if 9/11 never occurred.