BERLIN – A German of Moroccan descent has been arrested in Hamburg on suspicion that he is a member of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network with contacts to a man close to the Sept. 11 hijackers, federal prosecutors said Saturday.
The man, identified only as Redouane E. H., 36, was a resident of the northern city of Kiel and was arrested on suspicion of supporting a foreign terrorist organization, prosecutor's office spokeswoman Frauke Scheuten said.
As part of the operation on Thursday, federal police searched many residences in Kiel, Scheuten said.
He is suspected of being in contact with Said Bahaji, who had close ties to the three Sept. 11 hijackers who lived and studied in Hamburg — Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah — but fled before the attacks and is believed to be in Pakistan. Scheuten said, however, that there is not evidence of direct contact between Redouane E. H. and the hijackers, or their plot.
"The accused had numerous contacts with the international network of violent jihadis, among other places in Syria, Algeria and Iraq," Scheuten said.
"At the end of November 2005, he completed explosives training at a camp operated by a terrorist network in Algeria. He is seriously suspected of supporting the al-Qaida foreign terrorist network through recruiting fighters for suicide attacks in Iraq and through financial payments."
The evidence was largely drawn from monitoring the suspect's online chat conversations, Scheuten said.
Scheuten said there is currently no evidence the suspect was planning any attacks within Germany.
He is also believed to have been in contact with Bahaji, a German national, who is believed to have provided logistical support for the Hamburg cell.
Bahaji fled Germany shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks and remains at large, sought on an international arrest warrant issued by Germany. Bahaji, whose father is Moroccan, still has family in Hamburg, including a wife and daughter, and authorities have previously said they had intercepted e-mails from him.
Redouane E. H., prosecutors said, served a "function as an intermediary for messages between the separately pursued Said Bahaji, and his wife."
"He knows that he, in order to keep his location secret, could only continue contact with his wife through an intermediary who was trained in conspiratorial techniques," Scheuten added. "Only a person from al-Qaida's logistical network could be entrusted with such a confidential task."
She would not elaborate on how Redouane E. H. received the messages from Bahaji to relay.
Scheuten would not say how long the suspect had been under observation, but did say they decided only to arrest him after uncovering evidence he planned shortly to leave Germany.