- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 29, 2001

A Moroccan suspected of managing "large sums" of money used to finance the September 11 attacks on America was arrested yesterday by German authorities on charges of supporting a terrorist organization.
Mounir El Motassadeq, 27, was taken into custody in Hamburg. Several of the hijackers who crashed jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon lived in Hamburg and had been identified as members of a terrorist cell tied to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Germany's chief prosecutor, Kay Nehm, said the Moroccan had "intensive contacts" with the hijackers over several years, including ringleader Mohammed Atta and two others, Marwan Al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah.
Mr. El Motassadeq was included on a U.S. list of 370 individuals and organizations with suspected links to the September 11 attacks sent to international law enforcement agencies last month.
German authorities believed Mr. El Motassadeq managed Al-Shehhi's Hamburg bank account, which investigators said might have been used to finance the attacks and cover costs related to Al-Shehhi's U.S. residence permit and flying lessons. They said the Moroccan had power of attorney over the account.
"In particular, the accused managed a bank account set up for Marwan Al-Shehhi in Hamburg. From May 2000 to November 2000, large sums of money were regularly transferred into this account," prosecutors said in a statement. "According to our information to date, these funds were used to help members of the terrorist group."
Atta was named as the pilot aboard American Airlines Flight 11, which was crashed into the World Trade Center's north tower. Al-Shehhi was identified as the pilot aboard United Airlines Flight 175, which hit the World Trade Center's south tower. Jarrah was identified as the pilot aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in western Pennsylvania.
U.S. investigators had said one of the names found in Hamburg on Atta's will was Mr. El Motassadeq's, listed as a witness. The will, dated April 11, 1996, outlines a list of 18 instructions for his burial. The will was found by FBI agents in a suitcase Atta had checked but which was never loaded onto his American Airlines flight, which originated in Boston.
Mr. El Motassadeq denied in an interview last month with the Associated Press in Hamburg having had any connection to the terrorists, although he acknowledged knowing Atta and having visited his apartment.
He enrolled in Hamburg's Technical University in 1995 the same school where Atta, 33, and Al-Shehhi, 23, studied before leaving Germany last year for the United States. His courses, said school officials, included electrical engineering.
German authorities talked with Mr. El Motassadeq six days after the attacks in New York and Washington, although he was not arrested.
Hamburg is a focal point of an international investigation into the September 11 attacks. More than a dozen FBI agents are working with German authorities in that city in the hunt for those responsible.
German authorities issued arrest warrants for three other suspected members of the al Qaeda terrorist cell in Hamburg: Ramzi Binalshibh, 29, a Yemenite national; Said Bahaji, 26, a German of Moroccan descent; and Zakariya Essabar, 24, a Moroccan national.
Mr. Binalshibh, Atta's former Hamburg roommate, was scheduled as the 20th hijacker but failed to gain entry to the United States, said FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. Mueller said Mr. Binalshibh on three occasions was unsuccessful in gaining a visa to enter this country despite help from Atta.
The German warrants name Mr. Binalshibh, Mr. Bahaji and Mr. Essabar on "charges of forming a terrorist organization and at least 5,000 counts of murder."
German police said Mr. Binalshibh also spoke with Zarcarias Moussaoui, a French Moroccan held in New York by the FBI's Terrorism Task Force as a material witness in the investigation of the attacks. That conversation occurred when Mr. Moussaoui was attending a flight school in Oklahoma.
Mr. Nehm, Germany's chief prosecutor, had said Mr. Binalshibh took flight lessons with Atta in Venice, Fla., and later attempted unsuccessfully to obtain additional lessons at the same school. He said Mr. Binalshibh was denied a U.S. visa in August or September 2000 when he tried to attend the Florida Flight Training Center also attended by Jarrah after making a $2,200 payment.


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