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Germany hunts for key suspects in terror attacks

bahaji
Investigators released this photo of a man identified as Said Bahaji.  


By Sheila MacVicar
CNN Correspondent

HAMBURG, Germany (CNN) -- As the international terrorist probe deepens, German investigators are pursuing three men they say helped organize the September 11 attacks in the United States.

One of those three men, identified as Said Bahaji, slipped out of Germany before investigators knew they should be looking for him.

Today, Bahaji is one of the world's most wanted men; he and the other two men are accused by the German government of helping provide logistics and financing to those who flew the four hijacked planes.

German investigators say Bahaji, 26, lived in Hamburg. They say he was a computer science student, a German citizen with a Moroccan father. Agents say Bahaji had a former roommate: Mohamad Atta, accused by U.S. investigators of being one of the leaders among the September 11 hijackers.

In August, while the suspected hijackers in the United States were finishing up their plans, Said Bahaji was making his, investigators say. They say he obtained a visa for Pakistan from the embassy in Berlin. and told his family he was taking a suddenly offered internship with a computer software firm in Pakistan.

He left behind his wife and young son. On September 3, he left for Karachi, Pakistan. The last time the family heard from him was in a September 4 e-mail obtained by Fortune Magazine and CNN:

"Greetings from Pakistan. Praise be to Allah. I am fine. I wonít be phoning often Ö itís too expensive."

The e-mail ends: "All is good."

And then, Said Bahaji was gone.

Phone calls offer break for investigators

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Sources: Plot conceived in UK, Germany, UAE 
 
EXTRA INFORMATION
Details of suspects released 
 

A week later, it was September 11. Within days, German investigators were in Bahaji's house in Hamburg. They found a shipping invoice for a package of what is described as CDs of religious speeches sent from what turned out to be a false address.

"It was clear that a package came from Karachi," said Richard Behar, an investigative reporter for Fortune Magazine. "That established the Karachi connection. And that led German investigators to turn their eyes to Karachi."

With one more reason to look hard in Karachi, German police gave Pakistani investigators a list of six German telephone numbers. They asked them to see if anyone in Pakistan had been dialing those numbers, and where in Pakistan those calls came from.

"Those phone numbers were run through a master computer and, bingo, one hit, and it was a phone booth," Behar said.

Investigators located a pay phone on a street corner in Karachi that they say was used three times to call one telephone number in Hamburg, Germany. Investigators say the number called belonged to Said Bahajiís home address. The calls were made on August 31, September 2 and September 4, the day Bahaji arrived in Karachi, investigators say.

It was the phone booth in Karachi that gave investigators the next piece of the puzzle they were putting together. They reasoned that the location of the pay phone was not random -- that there was something in the neighborhood, some place where a fugitive could wait.

Two blocks away, they found the Embassy Hotel. When investigators checked the hotelís records, they found Said Bahajiís name. And he wasn't alone. The hotel records show that Said Bahaji arrived at 3:30 in the morning of September 4. He checked into room 318 with two other men, previously unknown, all sharing the same room.

"The investigators found that these men made a real mistake," Behar said. "All three of these men were staying in the same room, in the same hotel, and that essentially helps put all three of them involved in this plot."

More suspects identified

Investigators then went back to the Karachi airport. Immigration cards showed that not only had Bahaji shared a room with two others, he had flown all the way from Hamburg with them.

A passport identified one man as Abdellah Hosayni, a citizen of Belgium. The other man was identified as Ammar Moulla from France.

The more investigators looked, the more they learned. They identified Mohammed Belfatmi, an Algerian who lived in Spain, on the same flight from Germany, who they say was staying one floor below at the same Embassy Hotel.

"We have actually identified more people who could have been associated with those acts, so that evidently speaks that they are traveling in groups Ö that they are moving in groups," said Jameel Yusuf, chief of the Karachi-based Citizens Police Liaison Committee, one of the most sophisticated Pakistani police forces.

They traveled in a group only as far as Karachi. Early in the morning of September 5, investigators say, Said Bahaji flew to Quetta, Pakistan, close to the Afghan border.

All of the suspects disappeared

Bahajiís roommates, the men traveling as Abdellah Hosayni and Ammar Moulla flew to Islamabad, and then it is believed, went on to Afghanistan.

Mohammed Belfatmi simply disappeared. There is no trace of him, or anyone using that name on any flight from Pakistan, headed anywhere.

Investigators in Europe have confirmed that the man known as Moulla traveled on a false or stolen document.

"The real holder of that passport is in France and has already been interviewed," Behar said, who added that investigators still do not know who Ammar Moulla, or the person using his name, is, or his location.

Belgian law enforcement sources said the man known as Abdellah Hosayni was traveling on a forged passport. The street address does not exist; they do not know his true identity.

German investigators strongly believe that the man known as Hosayni played a major role in preparing the attacks of September 11. With Said Bahaji, they have told CNN, they believe he was at the heart of the plot.

European law enforcement and intelligence sources said German investigators are seeking information about the man known as Hosayni. There are persistent reports that Hosayni returned to Germany early in October and was arrested.

German investigators refuse to confirm or deny those reports, saying the subject was simply too sensitive.



 
 
 
 


RELATED STORY:
• Germany seek terror suspect
October 19, 2001

RELATED SITE:
• Interpol

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