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Bin Laden bodyguard

Arnd Riekmann / jrbAugust 8, 2012

An alleged former bodyguard of the slain al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has been living in Germany for years. Authorities consider the 36-year-old Tunisian to be dangerous.

Copyright: Matthias Graben (WAZ)
Image: Matthias Graben/WAZ

For more than eight years, Bochum has been the home of a man suspected to be the ex-bodyguard of Osama bin Laden. And for nearly as long the Tunisian, known only as Sami A., has been under surveillance by German authorities. 

"We view Sami A. as a dangerous preacher," said Burkhard Freier, president of the North Rhine Westphalia state branch of the secret police, earlier in the week.

Düsseldorf cell

The German Federal Prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the Tunisian a few years ago. It suspected Sami A. of being a member of a foreign terrorist organization. But the agency was later forced to dismiss the case in May 2007 after failing to prove any involvement.

The situation is unchanged today. "No substantial evidence of a federal offense has been known to the Federal Prosecutor since then," a spokesman of the Federal Prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe told DW.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden (AP Photo)
Osama bin Laden was killed by US military forcesImage: AP

According to the German newspaper WAZ, Sami A. allegedly recruited young Muslims in Bochum mosques to join the "Holy War."  The paper also linked him to the radicalization of two members of the so-called Düsseldorf al Qaeda cell.

WAZ also reported that Sami A. had taught two terrorists in Bochum mosques: 21-one-year-old Amid C. from Bochum and 28-year-old Halil S. from nearby Gelsenkirchen. Both reportedly received ideological training from him for their alleged terrorist plan.

Internet video

The two young men are on trial in Düsseldorf, accused of planning an attack together with two accomplices. According to the indictment, they intended to plant a cluster bomb in a crowd of people and "spread fear and terror in Germany."

The WAZ report, however, deviates from information obtained by the Federal Prosecutor's office. A spokesperson for the office said Sami A. was not responsible for recruiting Düsseldorf cell members, alleging that it was Abdeladim El-K who planned the attack and recruited his own accomplices.

Ahmad Aweimer Foto: Oliver Berg dpa/lnw (zu dpa/lnw: "Imam in Deutschland: «Kämpfen gegen Vorurteile» vom 29.07.2011) +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++
Ahmad Aweimer is a member of the Khaled MosqueImage: picture-alliance/dpa

A video circulating on the Internet on Monday showed Sami A. preaching what appear to be radical teachings. The Salafist announced that family members who don't have the right belief don't belong to the family. The video has since disappeared from the Internet. YouTube posted a message saying that the user removed the clip.

Sami A. is no stranger to Muslims in Bochum. Ahmed Aweimer, a member of the Khaled mosque in the Hustadt district, said the Tunisian is only accepted as a visitor and not allowed to preach; his Islamic views are too abstruse. "We have to protect our youth; we have to protect our society," Aweimer said in an interview with the German public broadcaster WDR.

Magnet for violent Islamists

The Khaled mosque has often been in the headlines. Ziad Jarrah, a member of the September 11 terrorist attacks, once prayed there.

Some experts say the process in Düsseldorf is not about the Düsseldorf al Qaeda cell but about the "Bochum cell."

Prof. Stefan Reichmuth
Prof. Stefan Reichmuth speaks of a 'diffuse mosque structure'Image: Dominik Asbach

Bochum appears to be a magnet for violent Islamists. Since the 1970s, the city has emerged as a center for political refugees from Muslim countries, according to Stefan Reichmuth, a professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the Bochum University.

The professor has a theory why extremist preachers are able to radicalize Muslim students in liberal Germany. He speaks of a "diffuse mosque structure for Arab Muslims. Mosques committees, he notes, consist of a wide spectrum of people with no supervision, opening the door for ambitious preachers. "A preacher can draw attention, for instance, if he is an Arab and gives Koran courses," Reichmuth told DW.

The City of Bochum has already tried to deport Sami A. to Tunisia. But the order was revoked by the Gelsenkirchen Administrative Court, partly because Sami A. is married to a German with three children of their own. The city has appealed. Now the High Court of Administration in Münster must decide whether or not Sami A. may be deported to his native country.

Editor's note: Deutsche Welle is bound by German law and the German press code, which stresses the importance of protecting the privacy of suspected criminals or victims and obliges us to refrain from revealing full names in such cases.