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The secret e-mails from the terror accomplice

(20 April 2005) Following is a translation of an article by Ralf Nehmzow: “The secret e-mails from the terror accomplice”

Every time Nese Bahaji, aged 24, sits down at her computer in Harburg’s Heimfeld District to write e-mails to her husband, or to download those he has sent her, investigators all over the world are looking over her shoulder. Since 11 September 2001, America’s CIA, the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA), and the Pakistani intelligence service have been partners in the attempt to locate the bolthole where Said Bahaji, a German of Moroccan origin, is in hiding. Along with 30 year old Ramzi Binalshibh, now in custody, Bahaji is regarded by investigators as a key figure (“logistician in chief”) of al-qa’ida’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, in which more than 3,000 people lost their lives. It is regarded as beyond doubt that Bahaji was the intermediary between terror leader Usama bin Ladin and the Harburg (Hamburg) killer pilots’ circle.

Investigators have been tracking the exchange of e-mails in the search for concealed messages, and in the hope of finding out rather more precisely just where Bahaji is currently located (he is believed to be somewhere in the Afghan-Pakistani border region at present). Though they have had no luck so far, they have nevertheless gained insights into the bizarre worldview of a suspected leading figure of Islamist terrorism, his fears, his hopes and his apparently unshakeable convictions.

Abendblatt Newspaper has in its possession copies of 22 of these e-mails, running to around 60 sides of DIN A4 paper. The first was sent at 16:12 on 10 March 2004; the last on 27 January 2005, at 10:29. The author of 14 of them was Bahaji, who sent them to his wife; she in turn wrote the other eight to him. The e-mails constitute a curious mixture of everyday worries, global politics, justifications, theological theories, jatred for the West, and concerns for the future of his family (the couple have one son, Omar).

Said Bahaji A passport photograph of Said Bahaji.

On Islam, terrorism and the 11 September attacks

Said Bahaji starts almost every one of his e-mails with a profession of faith in Islam, and every message is permeated with ideas from the Koran – probably as evidence of his God-fearing nature, and not least in order to reassure his wife that he had nothing to do with the 11 September attacks. There never was a terrorist cell in Hamburg, Bahaji claims; his departure shortly before the attacks was a pure coincidence, he writes on 6 April 2004. His wife Nese believes him, and repeatedly advises him (on 2 April 2004) to give himself up, in view of his innocence. Furthermore, another terror suspect, Mounir El Motassadeq, is about to be released, she tells him.

How Bahaji may look today. An artist sketch of how Bahaji may look today.

To this day, Bahaji has repeatedly rejected her suggestion, on the grounds that he fears unjust treatment and public humiliation, along with the prospect of being deported to the notorious prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

For a long time, the two were agreed on one point: the 2001 attacks were a great conspiracy by the Americans, and were not carried out by Muslims. This line changed at the beginning of this year. On 13 January, Bahaji concedes for the first time that there was no conspiracy. Bin Ladin had simply kept his promise, he argues; and in his e-mail Bahaji does not conceal just how proud this makes him of his membership of Al-Qa’ida.

His wife Nese appears to have been deeply disturbed by this statement. In her reply dated 14 January 2005, she refers to Islamic scholars in asking him whether suicide attacks could be justified. Are such actions compatible with the Koran and its interpretations, she wondered? She goes on to ask her husband whether Al-Qa’ida might be a sect that has moved away from the community of pious Muslims.

In his reply on 26 January, her husband expresses his shock at her questions. He has no need to defend himself, he writes, complaining that his wife disbelieves him, rather than giving him joy. Just one day later, she responds that this was not what she had intended; she had no wish to disparage him. But she is worried.

On love, and upbringing of their family

In almost all of her e-mails, Nese Bahaji stresses the problems she is having in living as a single mother in Germany, a land of infidels. She repeatedly asks Said Bahaji to finally do something to improve her situation. Time and again (on 10 March, for example), she points out that their son Omar needs his father. Her husband’s most frequent response to this request is to enjoin patience on her: they are undergoing a difficult test, and his wife should be patient – and trust in Allah: then everything will be fine.

On 12 March 2004, he makes the first of many suggestions that she should move to Turkey – preferable together with his 70 year old father. On 13 January, he writes that kindred spirits would be able to supply her with funds.

This suggestion was rejected by Nese until recently (27 January 2005). She does not reply to his invitation to visit him in his bolthole (6 April 2004) – and the offer is not repeated.

Time and again, they turn to their son Omar in their e-mails. Said Bahaji looks forward to his son’s circumcision, and repeatedly expresses his longing to hear that Omar is still praying, along with the demand for his wife to ensure that he is doing so.

Said Bahaji’s tips on how to bring up his child run on and on. Punishment should be complemented by praise. On 19 June 2004, he also asks Nese to read to Omar his message that he loves him, that he should take care of his mother, and that he is longing for the day when he can hold him in his arms once more.

On everyday worries

A frequent subject of the messages exchanged between Nese Bahaji and her husband is money. He offers her financial support when she writes (on 14 December 2004) that Germany’s Hartz IV reforms (of the labor market, taxation, and welfare) have now come into effect, so that she receives around 1,000 Euros from the welfare office, plus 154 Euros of child maintenance funds. Nese sets out precisely how much money she needs for what, and the savings she is making – and sends her husband the number of a Hamburg bank account. Nese also informs her husband how difficult she is finding it to obtain a job. He is annoyed: she should get the idea of working out of her head. Nese counters by complaining of her treatment at the hands of the welfare office, and the obstacles she faces in finding a place in a kindergarten for Omar.

Everyday matters are also recurrent topics of their e-mails. Said Bahaji writes (on 28 March 2004) about digestive complaints, and how good wild fennel oil is in curing them. Their son Omar should drink a cup of it with warm honey every day: honey incidentally is also a marvelous beauty treatment, and he does miss his wife’s culinary skills. She writes that she is planning to get her driver’s license.

On one occasion when she is beset by doubts as to whether it is really her husband with whom she is communicating (on 10 March 2004), Bahaji replies how fondly he recalls a walk with his son Omar along the banks of the Elbe, and how he had enjoyed a bar of chocolate for tea.
Ralf Nehmzow

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