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The Recruiters of 9/11

by Chaim Kupferberg Saturday, Nov. 15, 2003 at 6:06 PM

In his landmark article, Chaim Kupferberg uses mostly mainstream sources to reconstruct the making of the Official 9/11 Legend.  Here, Kupferberg takes a closer look at the murkiness surrounding the stories of the two men who reportedly recruited some of the main 9/11 players in the U.K. and Hamburg.

The Recruiters of 9/11

Excerpted from: Truth, Lies, and The Legend of 9/11  

by Chaim Kupferberg 14 November 2003

The URL of this article is:

The following are selected excerpts only.  The complete text for this article may be found at


In his landmark article, Chaim Kupferberg uses mostly mainstream sources to reconstruct the making of the Official 9/11 Legend.  Here, Kupferberg takes a closer look at the murkiness surrounding the stories of the two men who reportedly recruited some of the main 9/11 players in the U.K. and Hamburg.

Atta's indoctrination and sudden "conversion" in the "Crusader" bowels of Europe has its curious parallels in the sudden conversions of Omar Saeed, Zacarias Moussaoui, and Richard Reid (a.k.a. the "shoe bomber").  In each case, we have the example of a well-educated man from a westernized background who had undergone a drastic "religious" transformation in an insular, cult-like atmosphere, leaving his former friends and family to wonder whether their loved one had perhaps been brainwashed.  Certainly this was the concern of the family of Zacarias Moussaoui, who was himself indoctrinated into the cause by way of the Finsbury Park mosque in North London (which also churned out the likes of Reid and Djamel Beghal, an alleged suspect behind the aforementioned plot to bomb the U.S. embassy in Paris).  Presiding over the Finsbury Park recruitment drive was a one-eyed, one-handed sheikh with a metal claw who went by the name of Abu Hamza.  Abu Hamza, like bin Laden, was a veteran of the C.I.A.-funded drive to oust the Soviets from Afghanistan.  In the mid-eighties, Abu Hamza settled in Britain where he eventually became known as one of the key point men in laying the groundwork for Muslim fundamentalism in the United Kingdom.  

As a testament to Abu Hamza's glass-eyed charisma and oratorical skills, hundreds of freshly radicalized British Muslim youths were "processed" through the Finsbury Park mosque, and then sent off to Afghanistan - the "finishing school" for the worldwide jihad.  In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, with British authorities rounding up suspected al-Qaida operatives hither and thither, it was indeed a curious fact that Abu Hamza was given free rein to continue his indoctrination activities.  On July 30, 2002, Fox News' Carl Cameron and Globe-Intel's Gordon Thomas and Yvonne Ridley reported that a combined FBI-MI5 raid on the former Dublin office of the International Mercy Relief Agency - an alleged al-Qaida front - had yielded up documents linking Moussaoui to Abu Hamza.  The documents had also conveniently linked Moussaoui to Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi (roughly eight months after they were first linked together in the Moussaoui indictment).  As an aside, an earlier raid on the Dublin offices of the Islamic Relief Agency had, as reported in Newsweek on November 11, 2001, yielded up the documents that had first supposedly led authorities to assume that Mustafa Ahmed was a senior al-Qaida financial operative. 

As late as September 11, 2002, journalist Farukh Dhondy was raising the question as to Abu Hamza's puzzling status as a free man, given his by now obvious role as a senior - indeed, crucial - recruiter for al-Qaida:

"Scotland Yard's information office refuses to answer questions as to why Abu Hamza isn't under arrest.  Several leaders of the Muslim community in Britain allege that he is working for the British Secret Services - in particular MI5 - as an agent provocateur..." 

Of course, raising an allegation does not make it so.  Yet the very fact that mainstream Muslim leaders would level such a charge at Abu Hamza says something about Abu Hamza's place in that community.  In other words, was this al-Qaida recruiter an organic outgrowth of Britain's largely immigrant Muslim community, or was he simply grafted on to serve purposes other than those of his purported constituents? 

Abu Hamza's role as an Islamic fundamentalist recruiter (along with that of his counterpart in Hamburg, Mohammed Haydar Zammar - the recruiter of Atta and Binalshibh) must be judged in the light of present demographic realities.  And the reality is this: with a population in excess of one billion adherents, and a geographic span that stretches from the West African Straits of Gibraltar to the far east of Asia, the Muslim World apparently was not up to the task of furnishing the most hardcore, sophisticated operative cells of al-Qaida.  Contrary to popular wisdom, the inferno of 9/11 was not conceived in fetid slums like Gaza, where deprivation and bitterness has stoked inter-generational hatred of Westerners and Jews.  Rather, the peculiarly sophisticated strain of Muslim terror that has been branded as al-Qaida was largely incubated among an insular network in the U.K. and the E.U., where a conveniently incriminating trail could be tracked and showcased as definitive proof of the authorship for 9/11.

In the excerpt below, Kupferberg looks at the contribution of Washington Post journalist Peter Finn to the "official" legend surrounding Mohammed Atta's Hamburg recruiter.

Only weeks before his July 15, 2002 article on Binalshibh, Finn had played his part in structuring the news regarding the man who had allegedly recruited Binalshibh and other members of the "Hamburg cell" into the ranks of Islamic fundamentalism - Mohammed Haydar Zammar.  On June 12, 2002 - that is, just a week after Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was introduced as the new 9/11 mastermind - Finn introduced Zammar as the "charismatic advocate" who had cast his spell over Atta, Binalshibh, and their Hamburg-based colleagues - in much the same way that Abu Hamza had worked his magic on his British charges.  

And, like Abu Hamza, Zammar was likewise allowed to carry on freely in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 while the German and British authorities were rounding up suspects by the dozens.  According to Der Speigel, German intelligence agents had approached Zammar in 1996, offering to recruit him as an informer.  Zammar reportedly declined the offer, and then - as reported by Finn - "around 1997, Atta and others in the Hamburg-based group, who already had anti-Western views, fell under Zammar's influence."  

The ,000 question, however, is whether Zammar - and British recruiter Abu Hamza - did in fact fall under the influence of any intelligence service.  Put simply, if one were to look for the fingerprints of a covert service lurking behind the "Hamburg cell", the most fruitful place to look would be in the vicinity of the man who supposedly forged this insular clique.  However, the Der Speigel item had perhaps the unintended effect of casting a thin veil of plausible deniability over this crucial question - for in the event that someone might eventually blow the whistle on an intelligence contact with Zammar, so what?  One could always employ the Der Speigel item to concede that fact and then "spin" it as a failed approach.  And if it became known that an intelligence presence was found in the vicinity of Atta and Binalshibh's apartment? - they were conducting surveillance, naturally.  Why no action, then? - an oversight, a blunder, complacency.  In two words - plausible deniability.

In the first few months after September 11, the general public was given the impression that the September 11 attack was a hugely choreographed al-Qaida operation, with literally thousands of possible conspirators spread out from the Philippines, to Malaysia, to Afghanistan, to Saudi Arabia, and throughout the continent of Europe.  Yet in the few months between Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's public promotion and the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh, it became quite clear that September 11 was in fact a closely compartmentalized operation essentially involving a small clique in Hamburg coordinated by the Lennon-McCartney talents of Khalid and Binalshibh.  In close support, the indoctrinated products of Abu Hamza's Finsbury Park mosque provided the Moussaouis and the shoe bombers who would later shore up the case against al-Qaida.  To complete the picture, a mixed bag of Muslim militants would be rounded up - in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Canada, Morocco, etc. - and branded with the all-purpose al-Qaida trademark. 

With all the billowing smoke and reflecting mirrors, the stage would then be set to obscure the dirt trail leading to Hamburg.  Put simply, that all-important Hamburg recruiter, Zammar, needed to be dealt with cleanly and cautiously.  If Zammar were in German custody, the spotlight - and the inevitable questions - would thereby fall on this absolutely crucial operative.  The German authorities, however, would be able to avoid that headache if Zammar were simply to disappear right under their noses - as he did.  As reported by Finn in his June 12 2002 Washington Post article:

"After the Sept. 11 attacks, Zammar was questioned and released by German police who kept him under surveillance.   German officials said they did not have enough evidence to charge Zammar, and he left Germany freely on Oct. 27, ostensibly to obtain a divorce from a Moroccan woman ...German officials said they have confirmed that Zammar reached Morocco, but he subsequently disappeared." 

Thus, Zammar was no longer a German problem.  As reported by Finn, "Zammar's partner and six children", who were still in Hamburg, "filed an official missing persons report with German authorities."  Finn also offers another reason why Zammar was - and should be regarded as - one of the more key operatives in the September 11 plot:

" At some point, probably in 1998 or early 1999, the Hamburg group decided to 'offer themselves' to al Qaeda, [a] U.S. counterterrorism official said, describing Zammar as a central player in that process." 

One could, of course, put a different spin on it - that Zammar, on the direction of his intelligence handlers, had placed his compartmentalized cell at the disposal of the larger al-Qaida network, which was in fact little more than a loosely affiliated collection of various Muslim militant cells acting independently of one another, with some genuine militant groupings mixed in with the pre-fabricated ones.  As with all well-conceived legends, 90% of the true facts would eventually be put out in the open so as to inoculate against any unforeseen discoveries, thereby rendering the missing - and potentially most toxic - 10% as an implausible, conspiratorial view of the "facts." 

So where was Zammar?  Here was the probable set-up:  Finn's June 12, 2002 item had raised the "speculative" prospect that Zammar was perhaps apprehended by U.S. authorities in Morocco, and secretly taken elsewhere for interrogation.  Five days later, the Associated Press revealed that, yes, Zammar had been apprehended in Morocco, and was duly handed over to Syrian custody (as Zammar was Syrian-born).  Two days later, Finn wrote a follow-up article in the  Washington Post, speculating that it was, in fact, his own June 12 article that had prompted this long overdue and sudden announcement concerning Zammar's fate.  Zammar was found - and Finn had set it all in motion.  In any case, we now knew he was in Syria - being "interrogated" by American officials, one assumed - which was pretty much the equivalent of being in a black hole, as far as the public and press were concerned.  Case closed on Zammar.  

End of excerpts.

For the complete text of this article, please go to


Chaim Kupferberg is a freelance researcher, writer and frequent CRG contributor.

The Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) at grants permission to post the above mentioned article in its entirety, or any portions thereof, so long as the URL and source are indicated, a copyright note is displayed, and, where excerpts are posted, the excerpt(s) is (are) indicated as such, and a link is provided to the full body of the text from which the excerpt(s) was taken. For publication of this article in print or other forms contact:  © Copyright Chaim Kupferberg 2003  For fair use only/ pour usage équitable seulement

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