Cablegate: Fourth Report On Islamic Terrorism Trial In

Published: Mon 4 Nov 2002 02:46 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
1. (SBU) Summary: This report summarizes the events at the
Frankfurt terrorism trial from July to September 2002. Four
Algerian and one Moroccan (listed below) are accused of
planning an attack on the Strasbourg Christmas market in
December 2000 and bomb building materials were found in
their Frankfurt apartments. They were arrested in December
2000 and their trial began in Frankfurt, April 2002. The
defendants have claimed that their intention was to bomb an
empty Jewish synagogue and not to kill anyone. The court is
trying to determine a) what the intended target actually
was; b) if there was any connection to other terrorists or
terrorist organizations. Two London contacts, presumed to
be Islamic extremists, have been mentioned: Abu Doha and
Noureddine. Thus far, no firm Al Qaeda link has been found,
although a witness, Sadikki, mentioned that defendant
Beandali had contact with Abdul Rachman, described as "a
representative of Usama Bin Laden in London." This report
will focus on the testimonies of the defendants, Beandali,
Boukari, Karimou, Maroni and Sabour and that of a witness,
Sadikki. End summary.
The Defendants and Witnesses
2. (SBU) We are repeating here the names, dates of birth and
known aliases of the defendants. (Some variances in
spelling have been seen in different sources.)
- Aeurobui Beandali (also Deandali) DOB 12/10/1975; aka
Ben Ali; aka Mustapha Mestpha Kelouili DOB 11/19/1978; aka
Djilali Benali Correia DOB 7/15/1975; aka Djilali Adadi DOB
6/5/1975. (Presumed Algerian.)
- Samir Karimou (also Krimou) aka Ibrahim Ahmed, DOB
12/18/1968. (Released from prison August 30, 2002.
Continues to attend trial.) Moroccan.
- Lamine Moroni, DOB 1/10/1970; aka Benard Pascale, DOB
7/25/1970. (Presumed Algerian.)
- Fouhad Sabour, DOB 2/13/1965; aka Hassene Benaimine DOB
12/08/1967; aka Samir Bouinoual DOB 8/9/1978; aka Alain
Dubois. (Born in France.)
- Salim Boukhari (also Boukari), DOB 8/8/1971; aka Hicham
El-Haddad, DOB 4/30 1980; aka Claude Aman, DOB 8/8/1971; aka
Karim Muscat DOB 8/8/1971; aka Messaoud (also Mesud) Zamali
(also Zemani) DOB 8/4/1966. (Presumed Algerian.)
- Aknoush, in detention in France. Beandali's attorney,
Diebrucks and Aknoush's attorney have been in touch.
Aknoush's written statements have been considered by the
Frankfurt court although Aknoush has not yet appeared for
questioning. He is expected to testify in Frankfurt in the
coming weeks.
- Mohammed Sadikki, was in prison along with Marino and
Beandali in two German prisons. Beandali asked Sadikki
to deliver messages to a mosque in Frankfurt.
Aeurobui Beandali: The Bomb Builder
3. (SBU) Aeurobui Beandali was the first of the defendants
to testify before the court. Beandali admitted he was an
expert in explosives and said it was his job to buy the bomb-
building materials. He said he was specially trained in
Afghanistan in religion, light weapons, heavy weapons and
explosives (dates of his training are disputed but he
claimed about November 1999 - August 2000). He explained
that the bomb was to be placed in a large Pakistan-made
steam pot, which he ordered in London. He also bought large
amounts of potassium permanganate, which he said he
originally wanted to use for an attack in Algeria. Beandali
claimed surprise that the target might be in France and said
he did not want to kill Europeans.
Target: Christmas Market or Synagogue?
4. (SBU) Beandali claimed that Salim Boukhari, another
defendant and member of the group, was receiving orders from
London to attack a target in France. According to Beandali,
Boukhari reassured Beandali that the target would be an
empty synagogue in Strasbourg. Beandali ordered Boukhari
and Sabour to drive to Strasbourg and film the synagogue
both inside and outside so he could build the right size
bomb for the target. When the completed videotape showed
the Christmas Market area instead of the synagogue, Beandali
said he became very angry and ordered Boukhari and Sabour to
try again a second time in Strasbourg, this time with a city
map. They were arrested before they could make a second
trip. (Note: The videotape was shown in court on August 27,
2002 and clearly showed the Strasbourg Christmas market and
surrounding area, panning the market and stalls several
times. Audio comments were heard on the tape referring to
"the enemies of God." There was no synagogue on the
videotape. End Note.)
Who is Noureddine and What Was His Role?
5. (SBU) Beandali said he had started to wonder if
Boukari's plan to attack an empty synagogue was actually
true when the videotape showed the Christmas market area
near the cathedral. Beandali said that when he learned that
a man named Noureddine in London was behind the plan, he
found it even more unlikely that the target was only an
empty building. "A guy like Noureddine certainly had
something more spectacular in mind, something where people
could be hurt." Beandali said he met Noureddine in
Afghanistan and noted he did not follow Islamic washing
rites. He described Noureddine as an Algerian with a French
passport living in London. He also claimed that Noureddine
was an undercover agent of French intelligence and that
Noureddine had told Beandali that the French secret service
had offered him money to inform on Algerians living in
London and Afghanistan. Beandali also said that Noureddine
was flown out of the Balkans by the French government.
Noureddine was also interested in a man named Hischam,
Beandali claimed was wanted by the FBI. Beandali said he
helped Hischam escape from Afghanistan to London, then to
Germany and Spain. Eventually, Hischam was arrested in
Algeria and Beandali believes Noureddine turned Hischam into
Comment on Beandali's Statements
6. (SBU) Comment: Beandali and Boukhari are in a mutual
blame game to show that the other is a) the leader of the
group; or b) in touch with a London contact giving the
orders for the group. Beandali accuses Boukhari of being
the leader and knowing the "real" plan (i.e. to bomb the
Christmas market and kill people). Beandali claims that
Boukhari hid this plan from Beandali. So who is the leader,
Beandali, Boukhari, or someone in London? Maroni, in one of
his rare statements, describes Beandali as the one giving
the orders for the group. Regarding the target, Beandali is
the only one of the five defendants who openly questioned
the claim of the others that the plan was to attack an empty
synagogue. The videotape showing only the Christmas market
in Strasbourg is compelling evidence. By claiming he played
no part in selecting the "real target," Beandali seeks to
protect himself against charges of attempted murder.
Salim Boukhari
7. (SBU) The defendant Salim Boukhari appears to have been
somewhat of a geographic outsider to the Frankfurt cell,
with stronger connections to London. He lived in London
starting about 1995 and married there twice. After his
divorce in 1998, he stayed one or two months with Noureddine
in London. Boukhari said he originally wanted to donate
money to the Algerian freedom struggle but instead used it
to go to Afghanistan (September 1999 - early 2000, but dates
unclear) where he trained in light and heavy weapons,
electronics and religion. He moved to Germany in mid-
November 2000.
Boukhari Tries to Implicate Beandali in Knowledge of Target
--------------------------------------------- --------------
8. (SBU) Boukhari refused to answer questions from the
prosecution and only responded to those from the judges.
Boukhari's statements were often confusing and inconsistent.
Boukhari said that he intended to return to London in
December 2000 and it was uncertain whether he would be
present at the time of the attack. Boukhari admits he was
the point of contact for Nourredine in London. Boukhari
claims, however, that Nourreddine did not give orders or
designate a target but gave "only ideas." Boukhari's
statements showed frequent inconsistencies in describing
Beandali's role and advance knowledge of the target. First
Boukhari insisted Beandali knew about the bombing plans as
early as November, 2000. Beandali vigorously denied this.
Then Boukhari changed this to say, "Beandali knew about a
phone call with Nourredine (in November)." Again, Beandali
denied it, and seemed to want to distance himself from
Noureddine, whom he apparently distrusted as an informant
(see para 5).
Was Boukhari the Leader? He Admits Contact with London
--------------------------------------------- ----------
9. (SBU) Boukhari contradicted Beandali on a question
about the use of the Baden Baden apartment. Beandali said
the apartment was intended as a kind of "storage place" for
the materials for the bomb that was to be built in
Frankfurt. Boukhari said he had intented actually to build
the bomb in Baden Baden. Aknoush, a witness in detention in
Paris, stated that Boukhari was in contact with Abu Doha in
London. Boukhari said he had spoken with Abu Doha but only
on the subject of renting rooms in Baden Baden. Aknoush
also said that Boukhari was the assigned leader of the
Frankfurt cell.
Sabour and Maroni: Maroni says Beandali was the Leader,
Sabour says Beandali was in Touch with London
--------------------------------------------- ----------
10. (SBU) Fouhad Sabour's statement came haltingly and was
sometimes inconsistent with previous statements by the other
defendants. Sabour's role in the plot is unclear.
Boukhari, in his statements, denied that Sabour had any
detailed knowledge of the advance planning of the bombing.
It seems Sabour was assigned some duties to help in carrying
out the attack together with Boukhari or Beandali. Sabour
admitted having accompanied Boukhari on their trip to
Strasbourg to videotape the target. Sabour also stated that
Beandali was assigned to participate in the attack together
with him. In response to the question of who planned the
attack, Sabour delivered yet another version: the plan to
attack the synagogue in Strasbourg was entirely the decision
of the Frankfurt group. But Sabour also mentioned that
Beandali was in frequent phone contact with London.
"Beandali phoned London," was among Sabour's favorite
phrases. (Comment: Sabour seemed to regard Beandali as head
of the cell, though he did not specifically say so. End
Comment.) Maroni confirmed Sabour's statements and also
indicated he viewed Beandali as the group's leader. Lamine
Maroni has not yet formally testified, though he announced
he would do so in the near future.
Busid Karimou Released, Continues to Attend Trial
--------------------------------------------- ----
11. (SBU) Busid Karimou was released from detention on
August 30, 2002. The court could not find any evidence he
was involved in the preparations for the bomb attack, thus
he was only charged with membership in a terrorist
organization. This carries a one-to-ten year sentence.
Since Karimou has already served 17 months in detention and
the court apparently felt he would not get more than a two-
year sentence, he was released. (Note: It is common
practice in the German legal system to release a well-
behaved prisoner after two-thirds of his sentence is over.
Further justification is required to keep Karimou for his
full length of sentence. End Note.) Born in Morocco,
Karimou went to Germany in February 1999, but later moved to
London. From there he went to Afghanistan for training, a
fact that he denied in his previous statements. He returned
to London after only three months of training and from there
moved to Frankfurt in July 2000. Apparently his apartment
there was used as a meeting point for the group. Karimou
refused to acknowledge any prior knowledge of the attack.
Witness Mohammed Sadikki Claims Beandali had Al Qaeda
Contact in London: Abdul Rachman
--------------------------------------------- --------
12. (SBU) Mohammed Sadikki, who was not very impressive in
recalling details, was an inmate along with Maroni and
Beandali in two German prisons. His statement revealed the
rather lax conditions regarding contact between prisoners.
In both Kassel and Weiterstadt prison he easily established
contact with Maroni and Beandali, who both tried to win him
over for their group. They also asked Sadikki to deliver
messages to contacts after his release. Maroni told Sadikki
that Maroni knew secrets he had not told police. Maroni
also admitted having participated in a number of terrorist
operations in the U.K. According to Sadikki, Beandali asked
Sadikki to deliver a message to a mosque in Frankfurt and
talked of the need to fight Christians and Jews. Beandali
mentioned a synagogue in Lille, France as a potential
target. Beandali also said that his group planned further
attacks in Germany, France and Spain. Beandali never
mentioned the Strasbourg Christmas market to Sadikki, but
Beandali said he would like to turn Rome, the cradle of
Christianity, into ashes.
13. (SBU) Sadikki verified Beandali's role as bomb expert
and indicated that Beandali and other members of the group
coordinated their testimonies in prison before the trial
started. Sadikki mentioned Usama Bin Laden twice. Beandali
asked Sadikki to contact a man named Abdul Rachman in London
after his release. Beandali described Rachman as "Usama bin
Laden's representative" in London, who had also promised to
take hostages to force the release of the members of the
Frankfurt cell from prison. Beandali told Sadikki that the
camp in Afghanistan at which he was trained was run by Usama
bin Laden. Sadikki said the Frankfurt group had 38 million
Deutsche marks at their disposal (which caused the other
defendants to laugh). Sadikki also said that the group used
forged and stolen credit cards.
Comment: Beandali Against the Rest
14. (SBU) Several rounds of testimony have not resolved
key questions of the prosecution: What was the structure of
the group? Who was the leader? Was there an external (i.e.
London-based) leader, who gave instructions? Whose idea was
the bombing plan and what exactly was its goal? Did the
group intend to kill people at the Christmas market or did
they "only" want to bomb an empty synagogue? This question
is crucial for deciding their sentence. What has indeed
changed over the previous weeks is the strategy of the
defendants and the defense. After first appearing to be a
concerted effort by the defendants, the trial now looks more
like a game of "Beandali against the rest." Boukari, Maroni
and Sabour (who apparently dislikes Beandali) state that
Beandali was the group's leader. It is relatively clear
that Beandali and Boukari are the key responsible figures,
though their exact roles are still shadowy.
15. (SBU) Comment Continued: Another trend we noted in
recent trial sessions is that Beandali's lawyer, Diebrucks,
has developed into a leading voice for the defense. He has
played a very proactive role. This was shown, for instance
in the meeting between Diebrucks and the lawyer for Aknoush,
another key witness now in detention in France. (Note: To
add to the confusion, some journalists observing the trial
believe Aknoush may have been the leader of the Frankfurt
group. End Note.)
Comment Cont: Beandali's Statements May Help Prosecution
--------------------------------------------- -----------
16. (SBU) Comment Continued: Despite the confusing
allegations by others, Beandali's statements were the most
consistent. Beandali claimed that Boukari planned the
attack and that he himself was "just the bomb builder."
Beandali's is the only one who, in his statements, has cast
doubt on the synagogue as the actual target. His strategy
may be to save his skin by discrediting the other
defendants, which would also explain the opposition he faces
from the other accused. Beandali's early cooperation with
the court could also work to his advantage. In addition to
the strong evidence of the videotape, the prosecution has
found in Beandali's statements support for their case that
the target was the Christmas market -- and human victims.
After a rough start, the prosecution seems to be gaining
ground, though they still have a long way to go to make
their case. The story of an attack on a synagogue has been
used consistently by all other defendants and witnesses
testifying thus far. Aknoush's future testimony, and
eventually Maroni's, may result in better evidence for the
prosecution. End comment.
16. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy
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