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 Saturday, 24 August, 2002, 11:41 GMT 12:41 UK
Atta 'trained in Afghanistan'
Hamburg police raid apartments
Hamburg was a base for three of the pilots
German intelligence officials say they have evidence that the suspected ringleader of the 11 September terrorist attacks trained in Afghanistan in 1999 and 2000, according to a US newspaper report.

Atta travelled to Afghanistan for some months in 1999 until early 2000

Klaus Ulrich Kersten
BKA director
There has long been suggestion that Mohammed Atta and his accomplices prepared their devastating onslaught in Afghanistan, but the German anti-crime agency, BKA, believes it has fresh proof to confirm the suspicion.

Klaus Ulrich Kersten, director of the BKA, told the New York Times that Atta was in Afghanistan between late 1999 and early 2000 with two others who subsequently piloted the planes used in the attacks.

All three men had lived in Hamburg, where they attended university.

Synagogue blast

Mr Kersten did not say where the evidence had come from, but the German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that a suspected militant arrested in Germany was currently helping the BKA with its inquires into al-Qaeda.

Mohammed Atta
Atta is widely believed to have been the leader of the group

The 25-year-old, believed to be a senior member of the radical Islamic al-Tawhid group, has allegedly told German investigators that he was in Afghanistan in 1999 and has provided information about militants who were active there.

Mr Kersten said the authorities had information on two other men in addition to the three pilots who were in Afghanistan in 1999, and who had also been based in Hamburg.

While it is known that the three pilots went to Florida in June 2000 to learn how to fly a plane, it is unclear what became of these other two.

He also said that a suicide bomber who blew up a synagogue in Tunisia last April was in touch with an alleged key al-Qaeda operative who is believed to have played a role in planning the September 11 attacks.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, identified by US authorities as a key al-Qaeda planner of the attacks was called by telephone by the bomber three hours before the blast outside the synagogue in Djerba, which killed 21 people, the New York Times said.


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See also:

25 Apr 02 | Europe
18 Apr 02 | Middle East
03 Dec 01 | Europe
04 Jul 02 | Americas
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