Despite an investigation spanning nine years, German authorities have failed to indict Naamen Meziche, a radical Islamist and a European citizen believed to be linked to major terror plots.
A US drone missile killed Meziche last week near a terror training camp in Pakistan. He was suspcted in being involved in the latest terror plot in Europe as well as the September 11 attacks.
The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday that al-Qaeda operative Ramzi Binalshibh, who is suspected of coordinating and funding the 9/11 attacks, phoned Meziche on September 5, 2001 in what was his last phone call before fleeing Germany.
Binalshibh was meant to be among the 9/11 plane hijackers but failed to obtain a visa to the US. He was arrested in 2002 and detained at the Guantanamo prison.
Meziche denied having received a phone call from the al-Qaeda operative or maintaining any contact with another 9/11 suspect despite evidence linking the two.
The phone call suggests a possible link between the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the travel advisory to Europe recently issued by Washington.
A senior official with the German intelligence agency said that three of the eight victims of the US drone attack were members of a radical group that left Hamburg for Pakistan in early 2009. The eight underwent military training at a camp belonging to Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist organization with ties to al-Qaeda.
Apprehended and released
Meziche, 40, is the oldest member of the German group. He resided in Germany for many years but was also a citizen of France, being of Algerian descent. A spokesman on behalf of Germany's Federal Prosecutor General office said that Meziche had been interrogated numerous times throughout the past nine years in respect to the 9/11 attacks but was never indicted.
He was first questioned in 2001 for a phone call and e-mail correspondence linking him to al-Qaeda. However, the investigation reached a dead-end. In many cases, German intelligence and security officials were forced to release terror suspects apprehended minutes before they fled the country.
"You can't charge them with a crime until they show up in a terrorist camp," one intelligence official said. "And then we can only hope they don't return," he added.
German security officials said that Meziche was a friend of Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers.
According to police reports, Meziche's father-in-law, Mohamed al Fazazi, was a religious leader who served as "the spiritual father of the Hamburg cell" that led the 9/11 attacks.
To better handle the phenomenon, German authorities launched "Operation Pandora," an effort to deepen cooperation with the US on terrorist investigations. The recent travel advisory to Europe appears to be a result of this cooperation.
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