Eight years after 9/11, the city where the attack was planned is once more enjoying a sad reputation as a center for Islamic terrorism.
The German media reported earlier this week that German security officials are tracking in Hamburg a new, ten-man Islamic terrorist group. Hamburg is the city that hosted Mohammed Atta and other key, 9/11 terrorists, while they planned their strike against the World Trade Center. Afterwards, history bestowed the city’s name on Atta and his associates, who ever since have been collectively called the “Hamburg Cell.”
According to an internal intelligence report composed by Hamburg’s security agencies, ten Muslims from the northern German port city travelled to Pakistan’s wild border region last March for training in an al Qaeda camp. Taking part in this “conspiratorial action”, were two German converts.
“The individual group members dispose …of a fundamental jihadist attitude and are numbered among the violent jihadist scene in Hamburg,” the intelligence report stated.
Besides their depraved ideology, what the two generations of Islamic terrorists have most in common was their use of the same Hamburg mosque as a meeting place. Currently called the Taiba mosque, in Mohammad Atta’s time it was known as Al Quds. But what probably has remained the same is that, if asked, no one at the Taiba mosque would know anything about the latest terrorist cell meeting within its walls, just as earlier Atta’s activities somehow escaped notice.
The German newspaper, Die Welt, reported that German security officials are very alarmed about Hamburg’s second generation terrorists. Unlike the cell around Mohammad Atta that targeted America, Atta’s successors are expected to launch a terrorist attack inside of Germany.
Already, authorities announced they believe the cell’s two ethnic converts have returned to Germany, which has angered the German public. Germans are, naturally, questioning how the two home-grown jihadists not only could leave the country unhindered for terrorist training, but also slip back into Germany.
Before the existence of the new Hamburg terrorist cell was revealed, Germans were already tense. Their country is on a high state of alert for terrorist attacks. Threatening videos, made in German by German jihadists in Pakistan and released in late September before the federal election, promised a terrorist attack on German soil within two weeks of election day if Germans did not vote to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan.
To their credit, the German electorate would not be intimidated and returned conservative Angela Merkel to the chancellor’s office with a strengthened mandate. This act of defiance caused the German Islamists to release two more menacing videos, again in German, from their Waziristan hideout last weekend. The time frame to fulfill that promise to strike ends this Sunday.
The new Hamburg jihadists, however, are not the only al Qaeda-trained German terrorists the German public has to worry about. The Office for the Defense of the Federal Constitution (Germany’s CIA) announced that an astonishing 180 Islamists from Germany had received terrorist training in al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad Union camps in Waziristan. Of these, a speaker for the intelligence agency said about 80 had returned to Germany, but would not say how many were under surveillance.
And it is not only al Qaeda-trained terrorists from Waziristan that are targeting Germany for its troop presence in Afghanistan. Days before September’s federal election, authorities in five German states raided 19 apartments belonging to suspected Islamists.
The respected German newspaper, Die Frankfurter Allgemeine, reported that the raids targeted German converts who were recruiting for a Koran school in Yemen. The paper quoted sources from German security circles who maintained the school’s operators are closely connected with al Qaeda and suspected the school also serves as a military training camp for “numerous converts from Europe and the United States.”
Threats to German security because of its Afghansitan role are also originating in non-Moslem countries. A Moroccan living in Canada, Said Namouh, was convicted last week in a Canadian court for planning to launch terrorist attacks in Germany and Austria to force them to withdraw from the NATO effort. The Canadian prosecutor said that, without a doubt, Namouh planned bomb attacks in the two countries and was “ready to die as a martyr.”
While it may seem strange that a terrorist residing in Canada, a country that also has troops in Afghanistan, would target far-off Germany, it is no mystery to western intelligence services. Both German and American security authorities viewed Germany as a prime target for a terrorist attack this year due to September’s federal elections. A successful terrorist attack, al Qaeda had hoped, would cause the German electorate to vote for troop withdrawal, much like the 2004 Madrid train bombings before Spain’s election saw the Spanish military pulled out of Iraq.
According to polls, about 70 per cent of Germans would like their soldiers withdrawn from Afghanistan. This fact was also instrumental in their country becoming a major terrorist target this year. Due to their burden of history, war is unpopular with Germans, among whom now runs a strong, pacifistic streak that al Qaeda wants to exploit. It views Germany as the weak link among major NATO countries.
But unfortunately Hamburg and other German cities are destined to host more terrorist cells in the future. The best evidence of this appeared in a recently released al Qaeda video that proudly put the German terrorist colony in Waziristan on display. German viewers were disturbed to see the terrorists’ children shooting assault rifles with several blond, European-looking children noticeable among them. The next generation of German-speaking terrorists is already in training.