What is it about Islamic Terrorists and Hamburg, Germany?

The 9/11 attacks were plotted at Hamburg. Now, a group of jihadists from Hamburg is alleged to be at the heart of the recent al- Qaeda plot to launch coordinated terrorist attacks against European cities.

Western intelligence officials say they learned about the reported plot after Ahmed Sidiqi, a German citizen of Afghan descent, was arrested in Afghanistan in July and taken to the U.S. air base at Bagram for questioning. He has not been charged and intelligence sources in Germany say he is cooperating with the investigation.

In early 2009, Sidiqi and 10 others left Hamburg for the tribal areas of Pakistan — where most joined a jihadist group fighting U.S. and coalition forces across the border in Afghanistan, according to German intelligence officials.

Sidiqi told American interrogators that at least one member of his travel group was to be a “foot soldier” in the plot, with other members of the group helping to plan the attacks, a European counterterrorism official told CNN.Sidiqi divulges new, unverified information every day, the German intelligence sources said.

German officials said the Hamburg group members were recruited from the Taiba mosque in Hamburg. In the 1990s, that same mosque — then called Al Quds — was attended by Mohamed Atta, who went on to become the lead hijacker in the 9/11 attacks.

A friend of Atta from those days has emerged as a crucial figure in the new plot, European intelligence officials tell CNN. Naamen Meziche, 40, a French citizen of Algerian descent, worked to persuade a number of young men praying at the Taiba mosque to join in jihad, the officials said. Though his exact whereabouts are unknown to authorities, he is thought to be in the Afghan/Pakistan border area. Meziche’s wife told CNN that he was overseas.

According to a European counterterrorism official, Meziche had connections to al Qaeda dating to the 1990s that he rekindled once he arrived in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

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“Their greatest enemy is the United States,” a German intelligence official told CNN.

A recent report by Hamburg’s intelligence services said that 45 jihadists lived freely and openly in the city, from where they supported al Qaeda. High evidence thresholds under the German legal system have made it very difficult for authorities to make arrests, German officials told CNN. In addition to those actively supporting al Qaeda, another 200 Islamists living in the city are described as having “violent tendencies.”

A senior German counterterrorism source told CNN that some 200 people have left the country since 9/11 to receive training with militant groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, and that dozens have returned. According to German intelligence officials, the uptick in U.S. drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan has not staunched the enthusiasm of German militants wishing to travel there. READ MORE: CNN

THE OTHER HAMBURG CELL:

911-inside-the-hamburg-cell

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