Terrorism 'treasurer' seized by Germans

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The Independent Online

Police in Germany have arrested the suspected treasurer of the "Hamburg cell", the close-knit group believed to have provided three of the four pilots for the 11 September attacks in America.

Germany's chief public prosecutor, Kay Nehm, said the man, identified as Mounir El Motassadeq, from Morocco, controlled the Hamburg account which bankrolled the terrorists' flying lessons in the US. He is formally charged with supporting terrorism.

Mr Motassadeq, 27, was a student of electrical engineering at the same Hamburg university where Mohamed Atta, the alleged leader of the group, obtained his degree in urban planning. A close friend of the three pilots, he was reported to have visited Pakistan last year.

The FBI named Mr Motassadeq as a suspect in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington. German police searched his home on 14 September, but detained him only briefly. He has been under surveillance ever since.

The Moroccan's organisational role is said to have become increasingly apparent as investigators focused on the money trail leading from the Middle East to Hamburg and directly to the hijackers in the US. Mr Motassadeq had power of attorney over the Hamburg bank account belonging to Marwan Al-Shehhi, who is believed to have been the pilot of the hijacked airliner which crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Centre.

Shehhi, whose studies in Germany were funded by a military grant from the United Arab Emirates, was the "finance minister" of the 11 September operation. German prosecutors say "large sums of money" were deposited in his account between May and November 2000.

By that time, though, Shehhi and Atta were in the US, learning to fly and setting up a fresh bank account at the Suntrust Bank, in Florida. The German bank account was in the hands of Mr Motassadeq.

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