Hamburg shuts down 9/11 mosque over fears it is a 'jihadi magnet'
The Taiba mosque was closed and the cultural association that runs it was banned, officials in Hamburg said.
"We have closed the mosque because it was a recruiting and meeting point for Islamic radicals who wanted to participate in so-called jihad or holy war," said Frank Reschreiter, a spokesman for the Hamburg state interior ministry.
He said 20 police officers were searching the building and had confiscated material, including several computers.
The homes of leading members of the cultural association were also searched and the group's assets were confiscated, Hamburg's state government said in a statement.
The prayer house, until two years ago known as the al-Quds mosque, was a meeting and recruiting point years ago for some of the 11 September attackers before they moved to the United States.
Authorities say 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta and attackers Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah had studied in Hamburg and frequented the al-Quds mosque.
Mr Reschreiter said the mosque had been under observation by local intelligence officers for "quite a long time" and this was the first time it had been closed.
The local interior ministry said about 45 supporters of jihad live in the Hamburg area and around 200 people regularly attend Friday prayers at the Taiba mosque.
The ministry also said that, over the years, the mosque had become a magnet for so-called jihad tourists - Muslims who wanted to boast about having worshipped at the same mosque where the 11 September terrorists gathered for prayer.
The Hamburg interior ministry said a group of 11 militants who had travelled to military training camps in Uzbekistan in March 2009 was formed at Taiba mosque.It added that "the training courses, sermons and seminars by the association as well texts published on the group's home page not only violate the constitution but also radicalise listeners and readers".
Most of the group's members were either German converts, of Middle Eastern origin or from the Caucasus region.
A 2009 report by the Hamburg branch of Germany's domestic intelligence agency said the Taiba mosque had again become the "centre of attraction for the jihad scene" in the northern port city.
"A very important factor for the radicalisation of the group members was certainly their joint visits to the mosque," the intelligence report stated.
It appears that one man from the group joined the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist organisation in Central Asia, the report said.
A spokesman for an association of 30 mosques in Hamburg last night condemned the authorities' closure of the Taiba mosque.
"I think this was a wrong move," Norbert Mueller of the Schura Association of Islamic Communities in Hamburg said.
"Closing mosques does not make jihadists disappear."
The radical supporters of Taiba had been isolated among Hamburg's Muslim community, Mr Mueller said.
He warned that they would now try to infiltrate other Muslim groups in the city.
"At least it was easy to keep them under surveillance as long as they all met at Taiba," Mr Mueller added.
The current imam of the Taiba mosque is Mamoun Darkazanli, who was questioned following the 2001 attacks after it emerged he moved in some of the same circles as the hijackers. Darkazanli, a dual citizen of Germany and Syria, denied any links to Osama bin Laden or the attacks.
In 2004, he was arrested in Hamburg on a Spanish warrant accusing him of involvement with al-Qaeda and alleging he was a bin Laden financier.
His extradition was blocked by Germany's high court and he was released. In 2006, German prosecutors closed their own investigation of him, saying there was insufficient evidence to show that Darkazanli supported al-Qaeda.