<i>48 Hours:</i>

Was Attacks Planned In Hamburg Apartment?

In Hamburg, Germany, it’s 2:48 pm. on Tuesday; that’s 8:48 a.m. in New York, exactly two weeks after terrorists hijacked four jetliners and crashed the first of them into the World TradeCenter.

It may seem like a odd place to look for terrorists, but that’s exactly what investigators are doing. The hijackers, who piloted the planes into crashes , may have met their end in New York and Washington, but some of them started out in Hamburg. Today, reports 48 Hours, Correspondent Erin Moriarty , the investigation centers not only on the terrorists who died but on the ones who might have gotten away.

Next to Osama bin Laden, 26- year-old Said Bahaji and 29-year-old Ramzi Bin Al Shibh may be the most wanted men in the world. Last seen in Hamburg, these fugitives are the first to be charged with more than 5,000 counts of murder.

Hamburg’s Interior Minister Olaf Schulz says German authorities, initially caught off guard, are now searching every known address, dusting the walls for fingerprints, confiscating computers and interrogating Bajahi’s wife.

“It would be very good to get someone alive to tell us about it,” he says.

When Christina Johrde, an investigative reporter with the Hamberg evening newspaper, saw the terrorist attacks on television, she thought she’d just be searching for the families of German victims.

“I did never, never think that the terrorist cells who planned this,..who killed themselves and thousands of other people, would live among us,” she says.

If the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was planned in Germany, it most likely was in the modest four room apartment where Bajahi and Bin Al Shibh lived with 33-year-old Mohamed Atta. Investigators now say Atta flew American Airlines flight 11 into the north tower of the World Trade Center.

In December of 1998, Thorsten Albrecht thought he was renting his apartment to three earnest students at the nearby technical university. “We checked their papers, their passports,” he says. “They look like very normal young guys. They have no faces of bad men.”

One month later..Mohamed Atta went to the school and arranged for what he said was a private prayer room for his friends, but which Johrde now believes was a terrorist cell.

It was a cell that would grow in number to include at least two more students who would later die in the U.S. attack. Five men hiding out in the open - in a German city that since the Cold War has given foreigners a warm welcome.

It was perfect for their purposes, not only because terrorists were not expected to gather in Hamburg but also because it has a techncal university where foreign students with high-tech computers hardly stand out.

Investigators now believe that’s how they communicated with other terrorists and arranged for flight training in the U.S.

“Email is the key to everything,” says Johrde.

Said Bajahi has been described as the man who did all the logisitics. Investigators believe that a Syrian man - living in a Hamburg apartment -may have been his link to bin Laden. While the Syrian denies it and has not been arrested, just this week his bank account was frozen by the White House.

Armed with money and a plan, the terrorist cell in Hamburg divided earlier this year. Three of the five went to the US to carry out the attack; Bin Al Shibh and Bajahi stayed behind. Then, they vanished earlier this month, just days before the attack.

And for the people of Hamburg, it is sad that a few men, nearly invisible when they lived there, could leave such an indelible mark now that they’ve gone.

“Now,” says Johrde, “I have to feel whenever I go in the world, when I say I’m from Hamburg, Germany, people are not saying. ‘Oh, what is it like? Is it a nice city?’ They’re saying, ‘Oh, that’s where the terrorists lived that started the war on western civilization.’”

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