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August 24, 2005
Another Stranger To The 9/11 Narrative Surfaces

The German news magazine Der Spiegel profiles yet another terrorist linked to the 9/11 attack plot and the Hamburg cell whence it sprang. Luai Sakra surfaced in Turkey, and although he has some apparent stability issues, DS reports that the Syrian has worked as an informant for Western intelligence agencies. Either that, or Sakra knows how to spin fantasies that might cost him his life (h/t: CQ reader Rob P-M):

Two weeks ago, Turkish police arrested an Islamist with ties to many upper tier al-Qaida members. The man not only tried to get asylum in Germany, but claims to have known about the London bombings beforehand and to have helped the 9/11 pilots. ...

Turkish anti-terror officials held the suspected al-Qaida member for four days. Just after his arrest two weeks ago, Sakra admitted to planning strikes against Israeli cruise ships; he hoarded 750 kilograms of explosives for the purpose. When some of those explosives went up in flames, in his Antalya apartment, he fled.

What Sakra told officials during his interrogation suggests a deep jihadist career. The Syrian, who knows weapons as well as he knows his whiskey and wine, has obviously played a far more important role in the terrorist underground than officials first suspected. According to his own testimony, he knew about the London bombings before they happened, and supported the pilots on 9/11.

"I was one of the people who knew the 9/11 perpetrators," Sakra reportedly said in passing during the interrogation, "and I knew the plans and times beforehand." He claims to have provided the pilots with passports and money.

Sakra lived in the German town of Schramberg from September 2000 to July 2001, during the period when the Hamburg cell actively supported Mohammed Atta and the primary leaders of the attack plot. By July 2001, when he left, most of the heavy lifting had been done by those abroad, and the rest of the attack preparation took place in the United States. Sakra would have moved on to a new assignment at that time.

However, according to Sakra, he had plenty of connections to other agencies other than al-Qaeda. He claims to have tipped off the Syrians about the 9/11 attacks, who waited until afterwards to notify the Americans of the tip. The tip, according to DS, accurately predicted that the AQ operation would use commercial aircraft as missiles against buildings in the US. The Turkish media also claim that the CIA made contact with Sakra twice in 2000 but were unable to turn him despite offering Sakra large sums of money. They turned to the Turkish intelligence group MIT, who could not track him down until August 2001, four weeks before the 9/11 attacks -- but released him, apparently without coordinating with the CIA.

Sakra seems like a strange Islamist fanatic. The Turks found plenty of pharmaceuticals on him during his latest arrest, and his mood swings suggest that he may be bipolar. He drinks alcohol, doesn't pray much, and his career as described by DS looks more like a free agent than true believer. Sakra claims to not only have trained with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan but to have fought in Fallujah for his network.

The Turks have him in custody due to the kidnap and murder of a Turkish truck driver in Iraq, and his description of the event complements the video record almost perfectly. However, they consider him a reliable witness as his story coordinates well with estblished facts about al-Qaeda and their operations.The DS report clearly takes Sakra seriously.

The Germans will want to thoroughly investigate Sakra's stay in Germany very carefully, and the CIA should join them. He may prove worthless in the long run, but he might have interesting information about the kinds of connections the AQ plotters had with other espionage agents in Germany during that same period, especially the two Iraqis arrested in February 2001. It should surprise no one that Sakra's name doesn't appear at all in the 9/11 Commission report, nor any hint that Syrian intelligence informed the US about the attacks after they occurred. That may mean that Sakra has no credibility; however, if he checks out, it may be yet another dot that the Commission either ignored or missed while making the connections that pleased them.

Addendum: I would agree that a healthy dose of skepticism should accompany this development. He sounds like a fantasist, an dthe pharmaceuticals don't add to his credibility. It sounds like the Turks take him seriously for reasons of their own, though, and if he was mixing up some explosives in Antalya, he's at least dangerous ... to himself.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 24, 2005 12:13 PM

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