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Germany arrests suspected al-Qaida financier on Spanish warrant

SHARE Germany arrests suspected al-Qaida financier on Spanish warrant

BERLIN — Authorites on Friday arrested a Syrian-German businessman who is wanted by Spain on charges he helped fund the al-Qaida terrorist network for years and who appeared in a wedding video at a mosque with some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, German officials said.

Mamoun Darkazanli, 46, was taken into custody in Hamburg on a Spanish warrant and is being held for possible extradition, city judicial spokeswoman Sabine Westphalen told The Associated Press.

Darkazanli was questioned by German police shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States after it emerged that three of the suicide hijackers lived and studied in Hamburg. He was freed for lack of evidence and continued to live in the German port city.

His Hamburg-based trading company was has been labeled a front for terrorism by the Bush administration.

Spanish authorities allege that Darkazanli was "one of the key figures of the al-Qaida terror network" and "the permanent contact person and assistant of Osama bin Laden in Germany," Hamburg authorities said in a statement.

He is accused of giving logistical and financial support to the network in Spain, Germany and Britain since 1997, the statement said.

Darkazanli, a Syrian native, faces up to 12 years in prison in Spain if convicted of charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

German authorities arrested him because he was a flight risk, the statement said. It did not elaborate.

Darkazanli did not respond to the charges after his arrest, but said he would contest extradition, the statement said.

Darkazanli is alleged to have been involved in the purchase of a ship for bin Laden, handling administrative details, and paying bills. He also allegedly traveled to Kosovo in late 2000 on an al-Qaida mission, Hamburg authorities said.

He was among 35 suspects — including bin Laden himself — who were indicted in 2003 by a Spanish judge investigating al-Qaida, Baltasar Garzon.

Darkazanli was one of several people who was identified in a wedding video shot in a Hamburg mosque showing grainy scenes of Sept. 11 al-Qaida suicide pilots celebrating.

The video of the October 1999 wedding of Said Bahaji provided investigators critical links between the suicide hijackers and other suspected members of the Hamburg cell.

Others visible in the video were Mohamed Atta, believed to have piloting one of the Sept. 11 jets into the north tower of the World Trade Center; Marwan al-Shehhi, the suspected pilot of the jet that hit the south tower; and Ziad Jarrah, suspected pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania.