Ramzi bin al-Shibh, The Becoming Of A Recluse, Terrorist & Torture Victim

Adam Fitzgerald
14 min readJan 19, 2020

Born in Yemen under a devout religious family, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh early life was met with uncertainty. The young al-Shibh took part in the 1994 Yemen civil war at the age of 22 and would fight for only a brief period before traveling to Munich,Germany to obtain a visa to the U.S. Exact details are unknown, but bin al-Shibh is well known in Islamist militant circles in Bosnia at this time. The ex-wife of Reda Seyam will later recount traveling to Hamburg from Bosnia with bin al-Shibh and Seyam in 1996. Seyam has never been convicted of any serious charge, but he is widely regarded by intelligence officials as one of al-Qaeda’s most important operatives in Europe.


He then applied for asylum inside Germany. From 1995 onward, while awaiting for the results of his asylum petition he traveled to Bosnia in 1996, He returned to Germany in 1997 only to find out his asylum was denied. al-Shibh would then travel back to Yemen, his birthplace, where he would obtain a student visa at the Germany embassy in Sanaa. He then traveled back to Hamburg, Germany only to become a recluse with poor social skills and had trouble in his grades at University of Hamburg. al-Shibh’s inexperience at becoming socially inclusive was noticeable to anyone. It was around 1997 when he first met Mohammad Atta at Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany. Atta found al-Shibh to be “mildly” interesting, only due to the commonality of their shared theological position.


Mohamed Atta, 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 GmbH. Atta and Belfas got their jobs through Agus Budiman, an Indonesian associate of theirs, who was already employed at the company. Zammar had begun “grooming” both Atta and al-Shibh to become more “fervent” in their Sunni Wahhabi beliefs by advocating violence to the disbelievers in the West, called “kuffar”. Zammar had long been under the monitoring of the German Intelligence, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BFV), who had begun tapping Zammar’s phone for the past 12 months. Zammar had traveled back and forth from Germany to Afghanistan, they had also found out he was involved in the Chechnya War as as well as fighting alongside the Mujaheddin in the Balkans. Zammar was a high level Al Qaeda contact, and had also been known to conduct in a myriad of criminal activities which included “gun running” and “being a financial courier’ for Al Qaeda.


December 1997-November 1998 Records indicate that would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh lives at the same Hamburg, Germany, address as a Moroccan named Mohamed Daki during this time. Daki will be arrested in April 2003, and will admit to knowing bin al-Shibh and some others in the Hamburg cell. In April 1999 Daki will obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it is not known if he goes there. It is generally assumed by the press that the Hamburg cell keep themselves separate from other al-Qaeda cells in Europe. However, Daki is an expert document forger and a member of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot.

The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), but apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Daki is not made. German authorities will interview him after 9/11, and he will admit ties to bin al-Shibh, but he will be let go, not investigated further, and not put on any watch lists. He will later come under investigation in Italy for recruiting fighters to combat the US in Iraq. He will finally be arrested and charged for that, but not for his 9/11 connections.


Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta leaves Hamburg for some time in late 1997 and early 1998, and he may go to militant training camps in Afghanistan, possibly with hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. When Atta returns in the spring of 1998 he tells his roommate that he has been on another pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, although author Terry McDermott will later note, “He had been on hajj just 18 months earlier, and it would be unlikely for a student — even one so devout — to go twice so quickly or stay so long.” This is Atta’s longest absence since arriving in Hamburg, and there is no record of him spending any substantial portion of it at home in Cairo. According to McDermott, he leaves Hamburg “as he usually did over the winter holiday.”

Atta and Bin-Shibh would travel often times together and disappear for months on end, telling relatives they were on Haji. Their whereabouts would be unknown. But some speculate they would be meeting with Al Qaeda coordinator and fundraiser Khalid Shaikh Muhammad.

It was during the summer of 1998, that the Hamburg Cell would finally come to fruition under Atta and Ramzi’s leadership. Here they would meet future 9/11 hijackers…Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah and other Al Qaeda operatives such as Said Bahaji and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Zammar was a long time Syrian Al Qaeda operative involved with multiple nefarious criminal activities. It was under Zammar and another Syrian/Germann operative, Mamoun Darkanzali, who would help shape and coordinate the Hamburg Cell in the mid 1990's.


In December 1999 Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mohammad Atta, Marwah al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah would travel to Afghanistan to receive training at an Al Qaeda camp. Where they would eventually meet with al Qaeda top echelon leaders Osama Bin Laden, Mohammed Atef. Bin Laden asked al-Shibh his intentions, while al-Shibh said he wanted to fight in Chechnya in Jihad, Bin Laden said if he wanted to work for him. al-Shibh agreed.

Also at this time German Intelligence would have the Hamburg Cell under surveillance. But produce very minimal results. The 9/11 Commission will later call Mohamedou Ould Slahi “a significant al-Qaeda operative who, even was well known to US and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany.”

However, while in US custody after 9/11, Slahi will allege that a phone call he received in January 1999 from his cousin Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, a top al-Qaeda leader living in Afghanistan, was monitored. Slahi will re;ortedly say, “I later learned that my cousin was using Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone that was intercepted.” Another mutual cousin was arrested that month and Slahi says, “I wasn’t captured, but I am sure I was followed by the German intelligence.” He claims the imam at his mosque told him that German officials had come to ask questions about him and was told Slahi had ties with terrorists. Years later Slahi would be exonerated by the Guantanamo Bay review board, as having nothing to do with the September 11th 2001 attacks, even after years of unrelenting torture from CIA operatives under the SERE techniques of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, both psychologists.

It would later come out that Slahi, would be found innocent of the charges put before him by the federal government. His part, in contact with members of the Hamburg Cell, was fictitious.


9/11 “mastermind” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visits Hamburg at this time and meets with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Together, they make plans to carry out the 9/11 attacks in the US. 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 has come up with the idea of attacking the US 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


In February 2000, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh would travel to Karachi,Pakistan. There he would meet with Khalid Shaykh Muhammad where he instructed both Mohammad Atta and al-Shibh how to mix in with Western people. How to dress and behave like them in order not to stand out. Afterwards, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh would try for a U.S. Visa from the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa Yemen. He was denied a passport, and this he traveled back to Frankfurt,Germany. even after applying for a pilots training course thru-ought Germany and Yemen. During a trip to Afghanistan he would meet Osama Bin Laden & Mohammad Atef again, this time they relate to him the plans of 9/11 and which targets are selected. Bin Laden would also use al-Shibh as a coordinator for the 9/11 hijackers, and to relay messages from Afghanistan to the hijackers in Germany and while inside the United States.

9/11 hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi takes a three-day trip to Las Vegas, and will later say he was followed on the trip. One of the hijackers’ associates, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, will later say in a 2002 interview that al-Shehhi felt he was followed on a flight from New York to California by “security officers.” Bin al-Shibh will also say that fellow hijacker Ziad Jarrah felt he was followed on a similar flight (see June 7–10, 2001). 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar have also been concerned about possibly having been followed on a flight to the U.S.

According to the 9/11 Commission, during their meeting in Spain where they discuss the looming attacks, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta tells would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh he has considered targeting a nuclear facility he saw during familiarization flights near New York. This is presumably Indian Point, which is about 30 miles north of NYC. American Airlines Flight 11, which Atta “supposedly” pilots on September 11 2001, passes directly over Indian Point minutes before hitting the WTC. However, “the other pilots did not like the idea. They thought a nuclear target would be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot down before impact.… Nor would a nuclear facility have particular symbolic value.”

In an interview with Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda in 2002, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh will claim that, roughly around this day, he receives a coded chat room message about the 9/11 plot from future hijacker Mohamed Atta in the US. Fouda will later co-write a book, and in it he will allege that bin al-Shibh gave him a computer disc containing the exact message. The message, as translated by Fouda, reads:

“The first semester commences in three weeks. There are no changes. All is well. There are good signs and encouraging ideas. Two high schools and two universities. Everything is going according to plan. This summer will surely be hot. I want to talk to you about some details. Nineteen certificates for private education and four exams. Regards to the Professor. Goodbye.”

Fouda will claim that the message is in code, and that bin al-Shibh discussed with him what the real meaning was. In his book, Fouda says the real meaning is this:

“The zero hour is going to be in three weeks’ time. There are no changes. All is well. The brothers have been seeing encouraging visions and dreams. The Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Capitol Hill. Everything is going according to plan. This summer will surely be hot. I want to talk to you about some details. Nineteen hijackers and four targets. Regards to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or Osama bin Laden [Fouda isn’t sure which one is the ‘Professor’]. I will call you nearer the time.”

Bin al-Shibh also tells Fouda that “This summer will surely be hot” is a reference to the damage the attacks will cause.


September 12th 2001….Ramzi Bin al-Shibh would travel to Pakistan and head over to Afghanistan. There he would meet with Egyptian Al Qaeda emir Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Atef and Suliaman Abu Gaith and receive words of praise for the successful attacks in NY and Washington D.C. Later he would meet with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad in Yemen, there both of them would give Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda a face to face meeting and interview about hoe the 9/11 attacks took hold. It was in this meeting with Fouda, that they related the information about their participation and planning for the September 11th attacks, the idea coming straight from the Bojinka Plot, a plot constructed by Muhammad and his nephew 1993 WTC bombing suspect, Ramzi Yousef. Fouda had to leave the video he shot of the interview with al-Shibh and Muhammad so their faces can be blurred, but Fouda has kept audio of the interview. Some parts of the audio can be heard in the link below in Fouda’s two part expose broadcast by Al Jazeera “Top Secret: September 11”:


After the interview both al-Shibh and Muhammad began their plans to hide out in safe houses in Pakistan for the time being.

September 11, 2002….The CIA’s Special Activities Division along with the Pakistan ISI going off information from the U.S Embassy in Islamabad which was collected “unexpectedly” from the torture of Al Qaeda detainee. However this is “questionable”, the fact that the CIA had gotten this information that al-Shibh had been in Pakistan is not a “revelation” it also is coming from the words of a man who was brutally tortured and in suggesting this information as valid, the CIA is defending the methods of said torture. The actual information about al-Shibh’s whereabouts had come from a U.S satellite which picked up a phone call made by al-Shibh just 15 days prior to September 11th 2002. A call made by a NERA satellite phone, which lasted just 5 minutes. The information gathered was then passed to Pakistani ISI. Throughout the year, Pakistan militants had terrorized Karachi, one such area, Bahadurabad a suburb of Karachi, was under surveillance. It was during this raid that they learned of another residence, where Al Qaeda militants would use as a conduit.

The apartment was a 5 story residence in Karachi, where new buildings were being constructed for Pakistan’s middle class residents. Acting on the information both Pakistan police and the ISI had begun to conduct surveillance on the tenement building... House 63C, 15th Commercial Street. Only two of the apartments were occupied. On the first floor there was a family. On the fifth were the targets. The ISI set up surveillance.

Azhar Hassan Nadeem, Deputy Inspector General of Police, had relayed the information to the CIA’s Special Activities Division, who had set a team there, but only to act as observers of the operation. Meanwhile Pakistan ISI had begun a large scale operation which saw 10 militants inside the house, over 45 ISI agents had surrounded the premises and blocks were cordoned off.

At approximately 7am September 11 2002, three men exited the premises to visit a grocery store. They were apprehended without incident by the Pakistan authorities, however as one of the militants were being led away he had screamed over his shoulder towards the residence. The warning was noticed. Both the Pakistan police and ISI began to head towards the residence but quickly were met with automatic gunfire. As the police tried to head up the stairs onto the fifth floor, grenades were thrown out the window. Killing two policemen as the tried to race out of the way. Over the course of the heavy gun fire, Pakistan ISI agents had managed to gain access to the roof, where they began to warn the militants inside about the lack of escape. During the near end of the siege, FBI agents had rushed to the scene. The police rushed the building and captured the remaining seven terrorists.

Captured and rushed to awaiting police cruisers among a throng of onlookers and residents shouting and yelling were 7 militants. An Egyptian, a Saudi and five Yemenis…all were blindfolded and their wrists tied by rags. Not knowing that one of the people they had captured was one of the most wanted men in the world….Ramzi bin al-Shibh. While at the station, they had learned about who they had captured in the raid. The U.S Embassy located in Islamabad had gotten the information that Pakistan ISI had captured al-Shibh. The order to release him to CIA’s Special Activities Division was followed up, al-Shibh was then transferred to a CIA “black site” in Morocco. According to the Senate Select Committee Study on the CIA’s Detention & Interrogation Program al-Shibh had not any relevant information to give about any future operations from Al Qaeda, thus they tortured him further.

“CIA officers at DETENTION SITE BLUE therefore continued to use the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques against bin al-Shibh for approximately three additional weeks after this exchange, including sleep deprivation, nudity, dietary manipulation, facial holds, attention grasps, abdominal slaps, facial slaps, and walling.’^^^ Binal-Shibh did not provide the information sought on “operatives inside the United States” or “large-scale attacks inside the United States.”

The CIA would provide 109 intelligence reports obtained from al-Shibh’s interrogations during and after using SERE techniques, no information obtained by al-Shibh was not known to the public, thus the torture methods used on al-Shibh was useful according to the Senate report which elaborated further:

“Much of [bin al-Shibh’s] statements on the 11 September attacks have been speculative, and many of the details could be found in media accounts of the attacks that appeared before he was detained. In the few instances where his reporting was unique and plausible, we cannot verify or refute the information… he has been sketchy on some aspects of the 9/11 plot, perhaps in order to downplay his role in the plot. His information on individuals is non specific; he has given us nothing on the Saudi hijackers or others who played a role… The overall quality of his reporting has steadily declined since 2003.’”

Ramzi bin al-Shibh was reported to have been waterboarded over 81 times, and transferred to numerous detention sites, observed by the CIA’s rendition program, he was transferred to numerous sites located in Poland, Afghanistan, Jordan and finally was moved to Guantanamo Bay along side Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Ammar al-Baluchi, Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi and Walid bin Attash all who are being charged for the planning and participation in the September 11 2001 attacks in New York and Washington. It would later become known that Aero Contractors, a North Carolina private charter plane operation, was known to employ renditions for the CIA. Human Rights Policy Lab at the UNC School of Law determined that it was thru Aero Contractors who rendered al-Shibh to a CIA black site in Morocco.

According to a detailed report by Human Rights Policy Lab, Ramzi bin al-Shibh was subjected to extreme amounts of torture, that it had left him emotionally unstable. From Page 76:

“By early 2006, he had been shuffled around the enhanced interrogation program for over three years, facing extreme isolation and having no contact with his family who believed him to dead. About a year before his final rendition to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, psychologists assessed Ramzi bin al-Shibh and recorded his severe psychological disturbances — all ramifications as a result of his torture. He experienced “visions, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm.” A psychologist on site wrote: “in [bin al-Shibh’s] case, it is important to keep in mind that he was previously a relatively high-functioning individual, making his deterioration over the past several months more alarming.”

Since his release from his initial Moroccan custody in 2002, bin al-Shibh has provided the CIA with very little useful information, suggesting that the use of extreme extraordinary rendition practices and torture for four years of his life was of no benefit to assisting with the so-called significance to war on terror. Rather than allow him a fair trial, the CIA subjected him to years of inhumane treatment in hopes of gaining al-Qaeda intelligence. On September 5, 2006, Ramzi bin al-Shibh was transferred into U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was placed on anti-psychotic medications. He has since been charged with conspiracy for the 9/11 attacks and is awaiting military trial.”


The Department of Defense has classified Ramzi bin al-Shibh as an “enemy combatant”, and shall be detained indefinitely. Charged with participation and planning the September 11th 2001 attacks. Yet the inhumane and unnecessary treatment of al-Shibh and others like Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Abu Zubaydah, by the CIA will most likely render him free of any charges or statements he made to them under these conditions. The question we have to ask next is, why did they torture them to such extremes knowing that torture methods never work or produce any valuable information.



Adam Fitzgerald

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