Ground Zero Of Terrorism: Al Quds Mosque & The Hamburg Cell

Adam Fitzgerald
8 min readNov 14, 2019

According to a report collected from U.S and German authorities, The Hamburg Cell began when Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ramzi bin al-Shibh moved to Germany and rented an apartment in the Marienstrabe located in Hamburg, Germany on November 1st 1998. They men would frequent the Al Quds Mosque where a known radical imam from Morocco, Mohammed al Fizazi, would give fiery lectures about the immorality of the world which desperately needed Islam. Friday evenings would generally have up to 250 people listening in to Fizazi who is a Sunni/Wahhabi believer himself. Mohammed Atta grew up in Egypt. His father , Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta, was a lawyer, educated in both sharia and civil law. His mother, Bouthayna Mohamed Mustapha Sheraqi, came from a moderately wealthy family and was also educated in many areas.

Atta in his early formulate years was an insular child who excelled in his studies. Atta graduated from Cairo University and was considered an average student. Egypt, under Hosni Mubarak, during the early 1990’s was a hotbed for Islamic extremism. Between 1992 and 1998, military courts tried more than 1,000 civilians in mass trials, most of them alleged members of al-Jihad or the Al Gamma Islammiya. In 1992 Atta according to Egyptian intelligence reports and posted in The Guardian in 2001, joined the Engineers Syndicate, one of three professional associations controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood. One day his father had over a German couple who were visiting Egypt’s capital. The unnamed couple began to tell Atta about a student-exchange program that would help him in his studies. 6 months later, Atta would leave for Germany. He would end up enrolling at the Hamburg University of Technology. The German couple, high school teachers, would allow Atta to stay with them until he got situated. But the couple found Atta to be rather insulated and introverted. he began strict diets under Islamic law and began frequenting local mosques.

By 1994 Atta’s professor Dittmar Machule had invited Atta to travel with him to Aleppo Syria. While there Atta would begin his thesis afterwards he would travel to Egypt in 1994 to visit his family. By late 1995, Atta had visited Al Quds Mosque located in Hamburg. The mosque adhered to a “harsh, uncompromisingly fundamentalist, and resoundingly militant” version of Sunni Islam. Atta would become one of its loyal members. He would also start friendships here, two of his first acquaintances were Mounir El Motassadeq and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Al-Shibh would also teach classes here. By April 11, 1996, Atta signed his last will and testament at the mosque, which also happened to be the day Israel attacked Lebanon in Operation Grapes of Wrath which gave Atta the vigorous motivation to dictate his will.

Ramzi bin al-Shibh was born and raised in Yemen. His family known as working class people where his father died while al-Shibh was very young. he would work numerous jobs until 1995 where he would finally apply for a US Visa. His request was denied by US officials. While in Germany he frequented the Al Quds Mosque. he met Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi here as well as Ziad Jarrah later. Jarrah incidentally would live separately from the members of the Al Quds Mosque, even away from his girlfriend, Aysel Senguin.

Marwan al-Shehhi was born and raised in the United Arab Emirates. His father a Muslim cleric and his Egyptian mother a devout wife who kept to herself. His father would die in 1997. His early years are quite unknown but what is known is that neighbors of the Al-Shehhi family knew them as quiet people. In 1995 he graduated high school he enlisted in the military and was admitted on scholarship to travel to Germany to continue his studies. Al-Shehhi arrived in Germany in April 1996. al-Shehhi moved into an apartment, which he shared with three other scholarship students for two months before boarding with a local German family. Several months later, he moved into his own apartment. Those who personally knew him while in Germany describe him as being very devout in his Islamic faith, he wore Westernized clothing and would travel to many European countries. In 1998 he moved to Hamburg and would frequent the Al Quds mosque where he would become more radical in his views regarding the Muslim faith. It was here he would meet Mohammed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Ziad Jarrah was born and raised in Beirut, Lebanon near the Bekka Valley where the Shiite community thrived. His father is a mid-level bureaucrat and his mother, from a well-off family, is a teacher. The family is well to do and often drives their Mercedes while Jarrah attends private Christian schools. His mother and father although Sunni Muslims were secular in their beliefs and lifestyles. Jarrah at a young age always dreamed of flying planes, his father Samir al-Jarrah discouraged him early on. The young and affable lad loved sports, particularly swimming and basketball. He drank alcohol and also had girlfriends, his was quite sociable to everyone. In 1995–96 Jarrah moved to Yemen, which was short lived he soon moved during the spring of 1996, where he relocated to Greifswald, Germany with his second cousin, Salim al-Jarrah. Both enrolled at the University of Greifswald. He shared an apartment with Salim, both attend parties and discos, their youthful social life was noticeable to anyone around them. It was here he met his future girlfriend, Aysel Senguen. After a year, he moved to Hamburg, where he registered at the University of Applied Sciences. Senguen moved to Bochum, Germany, where she pursued her studies to become a doctor.

In 1997, Jarrah left Greifswald and began studying aerospace engineering at the University of Applied Sciences in Hamburg, while working at a Volkswagen paint shop. By 1997, Mohammed Atta would grow a full beard and begin teaching classes at Al Quds Mosque. Ziad Jarrah would have his own apartment in which he rented from Rosemarie Canel. It was here that Ziad Jarrah would frequent the Al Quds Mosque. It is not exactly known at what day but it happened in 1997. Also in this year known, high level, Al Qaeda militants would visit the mosque….one was Mohammed Haydar Zammar a Syrian born militant who has numerous connections in the Islamic extremist underworld and also has contacts with criminal organizations in Germany, Morocco and Syria. German authorities had once tried to turn him as an informant, but with no luck.

Another was, Mamoun Darkanzali, also Syrian born, and also a businessman who owned a company called, Darkazanli Export-Import Sonderposten, located in Hamburg. He was an Al Qaeda financier and also someone who knew many in the criminal underworld in the Middle East.

Beginning in the spring of 1997, neighbors of Atta’s would often see Zammar carrying boxes up to the Egyptian student’s second-story walk-up. U.S investigators believe he may have persuaded Atta’s Islamic study group to offer its services to al-Qaeda. Later in the year, Mohamed Atta, fellow plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and two of their associates, Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mohammed Belfas, find employment at a small Hamburg-area computer company called Hay Computing Service. Meanwhile, Darkanzali had bank accounts in his name while deposits came from Saudi businesses in the late fall of 1997, Darkanzali would receive a $250,000 deposit from a Saudi public company called the Twaik Group.

He would frequently become sociable to Atta, Al-Shehhi and Al-Shibh during this period. Ziad Jarrah would only be seen a handful of times with the group. Jarrah lived alone and separate from the members and can be confirmed to only have met with any of them in Hamburg on a single occasion, which was that of Said Bahaji’s wedding at the al-Quds Mosque in October 1999, per the 9/11 Commission Final Report. However during 1998, Jarrah would begin a friendship with a known Islamic militant named Abdulrahman al-Makhadi, known publicly as Dr.K. Jarrah would frequently meet with Dr.K during this year. Jarrah would contact “Dr.K” only before an important meeting or to discussion something of great importance.

They were told they were on a highly secret mission and were instructed to return to Germany after the operation and enroll in flight schools. While they returned to Germany, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad starts visiting Atta in Hamburg frequently, he also rents an apartment here. Keeping close contact with them by this time German Intelligence monitors the apartment in 1999 but apparently does not notice KSM. According to German investigations, by at least this time, the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell including Mohamed Atta, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh have come up with the idea of attacking the U.S using airplanes. This theory is based on witness statements and the discovery by the German police of a flight simulator file on a computer used by the Hamburg cell that was downloaded between January and October 1999.

The German Intelligence Agency BF monitors Mohammed Haydar Zammar who temporarily lives with Mohamed Atta, Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. They live in a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg. It is also said that the CIA is also monitoring Zammar as well but it is unknown how long. Meanwhile in spring 1999, Mohamed Atta takes flying lessons in the Philippines, and Marwan Al-Shehhi is with him. Also at this time Jarrah has an unofficial wedding with Aysel Seguin at the Al Quds Mosque. A photo of Jarrah’s wedding pic with many members of the Al Quds mosque would be found in Aysel’s home days after 9/11, in which the Hamburg intelligence agency LFV (The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution) would know 18 of the 22 people in said picture by name.

This suggests that German Intelligence would have a mole inside the Hamburg Cell by 1999. Meanwhile Mohammed Haydar Zammar would begin having regular contacts with senior Al Qaeda operational coordinators, US Intelligence most notably NSA and CIA, would not contact German authorities of Zammar. Instead, the Germans are given evidence from Turkey that Zammar is running a travel agency as a terror front in Hamburg. By Late 1999, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh travel to the Netherlands to hold a meeting. It was here they meet with an associate, Mounir el Motassadeq, who in turn is given funding from “unnamed” Saudi financiers according to the 9/11 Commission report. In late 1999 Mohammed Atta, Ziad Jarrah and Marwan Al-Shehhi would be appointed as the pilots for the “planes operation” plot.

They were selected for they had experience living in Western society and are well educated, as well as possessing some English speaking skills. According to information from KSM and al-Shibh years (information ascertained after dozens upon dozens of torture sessions from agents in CIA black sites) after 9/11….all 3 went to Kandahar and met with Osama Bin Laden personally. Here they pledged “bayat” loyalty to him, in which Bin Laden accepted them as future martyrs. On their return journey, Atta left Karachi,Pakistan on February 24th 2000, by flight TK1057 to Istanbul where he changed to flight TK1661 to Hamburg. Immediately after returning to Germany, Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah reported their passports stolen, possibly to discard travel visas to Afghanistan.

By January 2000, they would begin their plans to travel to the United States and begin their final operation which would begin the global transformation that would have a ripple effect for all of time. The operation was to be on the date of September 11th 2001.



Adam Fitzgerald

Geo-political scientist/researcher into the events of September 11th 2001.