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Hamburg Police Search Mosque on Tip

September 11, 2002

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HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ Police searched an Islamic center with three mosques Wednesday after a tip that a man inside was preparing explosives for an attack, but they found no evidence of terrorist activities.

No one matching the description of the person police were seeking was identified among the 43 people interviewed, chief investigator Bodo Franz said. However, eight people were arrested for immigration violations.

Franz conceded that the tip police received Tuesday did not provide concrete information about the suspect, timing or target of any attack. Police were compelled to search the building, however, by fears that attacks could be carried out on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks in the United States, Franz said.

Armed police surrounded the building that houses the El Nur mosque shortly after 5 a.m., blocking off adjacent streets. They withdrew after about 3 1/2 hours.

Three of the Sept. 11 hijackers lived as students in Hamburg before embarking on their suicide mission, making the northern city a focal point of Germany’s post-Sept. 11 investigations. A year after the attacks, city authorities remain sensitive to criticism that a cell of terrorists organized in their midst.

``We want to make sure people are not able to act in secrecy in Hamburg,″ said Walter Wellinghausen, a city security official.

The imam in charge of the center said he never observed suspicious activity at the Arab El Nur mosque, and complained about the negative attention on Muslims since the attacks last year.

``Mosques are under scrutiny here now, and I don’t like that,″ said Zulhajrat Fejzullahi, an ethnic Albanian from Macedonia. ``We came to live in Germany for our safety and our peace.″

The raid comes after last week’s arrest of a Turkish man and his German-American fiancee in the southern city of Heidelberg on suspicions they planned to bomb a U.S. base that is home to the U.S. Army Europe headquarters on the attacks anniversary.

Authorities believe they were acting alone.

On Tuesday, federal authorities raided five properties linked to a 25-year-old import-export firm owned by a German-Syrian family with links to at least two members of the Hamburg cell.

A German security official said the formal wear firms owned by Matin Tatari, a Syrian-born German, once employed Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who is suspected of recruiting members of the Hamburg cell that participated in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

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