Moroccan accused of terror link arrested in Hamburg

Authorities say man had contacts with hijackers

October 11, 2002|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

BERLIN - A Moroccan accused of having ties to al-Qaida training camps and the terrorist cell that plotted the Sept. 11 attacks was arrested in Hamburg yesterday as police intensified their search for those who provide logistical and financial support to extremist networks.

Abdelghani Mzoudi is not suspected of belonging to the inner circle of the terrorist group led by Mohamed Atta, the Egyptian believed to have piloted the Boeing 767 that struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.

But over the years, according to prosecutors, Mzoudi had contacts with the Sept. 11 hijackers and attended terrorist camps in Afghanistan in 2000.

Authorities allege Mzoudi had connections to Mounir Motassadeq, who faces an Oct. 22 trial on charges of managing a bank account that "transferred large sums of money" to members of Atta's extremist group. Mzoudi also shared a Hamburg apartment with suspected terrorists Zakariya Essabar and Ramzi Binalshibh.

Essabar remains a fugitive; Binalshibh was arrested in Pakistan last month and is in U.S. custody.

Prosecutors said Mzoudi "was aware of the aim of the group to commit terrorist attacks and supported it logistically."

Surveillance on Mzoudi began a year ago, when Hamburg police began wiretapping suspected radicals. Part of the investigation focused on the Attawhid bookshop, where police allege Mzoudi discussed extremists views with seven other Muslim men from Morocco, Egypt and Afghanistan. The bookstore and homes of the men were raided, but police determined only Mzoudi had a strong link to Atta's group.

The police portray Mzoudi as close to, but not at the center of, Atta's group. There is no evidence released suggesting that Mzoudi was considered to be among the first wave of suicide hijackers.

However, prosecutors alleged that the 29-year-old suspect helped find an apartment for Marwan al-Shehhi before the militant left Germany in May 2000 to enroll in a Florida flight school. Authorities believe that Al-Shehhi flew the Boeing 767 that slammed into the south tower of the World Trade Center.

Mzoudi is also suspected of attempting to arrange financing for Essabar to attend pilot training. Essabar failed to receive a U.S. visa and disappeared.

Mzoudi was charged with supporting a terrorist organization. Motassadeq is charged with being a member of a terrorist cell and of assisting in the murder of nearly 3,000 people Sept. 11.

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