Critical 9/11 Recruiter Freed In Syrian Prisoner Exchange

Ahrar al-ShamStringer . / ReutersIslamist fighters carry weapons as they march during their graduation ceremony at a camp in eastern al-Ghouta, near Damascus November 28, 2013. The newly graduated fighters, who went through military training, will operate under the Islamist Ahrar al-Sham brigade.

Mohammad Haydar Zammar, an al Qaeda recruiter who allegedly played a critical role assembling the terrorist network that carried out the September 11 attacks, has been freed from a Syrian prison, according to al-Monitor, citing German sources.

Zammar was the reported mastermind behind the creation of the ‘Hamburg Cell,’ and he helped drum up enthusiasm for jihad in Germany by distributing copies of Osama bin Laden’s “declaration of war” in Hamburg mosques.

John Rosenthal, writing for al-Monitor, reports:

According to local Syrian sources, his release and that of five other “political prisoners” was secured by the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham in exchange for the release of Syrian army officers. Zammar was serving a 12-year prison sentence in Aleppo’s central prison at the time.

It is believed that Zammar helped arrange travel to Afghanistan in 1999 for key members of the September 11 attacks, including Mohamed Atta and plot coordinator Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

Zammar, a naturalized German citizen of Syrian origin, was seized by the CIA and rendered to Syria after September 11.

Once in Syria, Zammar was reportedly held for four years without trial. In 2006, charges were filed against him for being a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. Although he was scheduled to be executed, the sentence was commuted to a 12-year prison sentence instead.

Zammar is believed to have stayed in Aleppo since his release, which was reportedly secured sometime last fall by the salafist jihadi group Ahrar al-Sham.

Although investigations against Zammar were opened by the German public prosecutor’s office after September 11, a ten year statute of limitations on charges has expired, thereby allowing Zammar to return to Germany without fear of arrest.

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