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German September 11 suspect has died, says al Qaida leader


Said Bahaji, with and without his beard (Bundesanwaltschaft/AP)

Said Bahaji, with and without his beard (Bundesanwaltschaft/AP)

Said Bahaji, with and without his beard (Bundesanwaltschaft/AP)

A German man believed to have provided logistical support to the Hamburg-based September 11 hijackers has died, according to a newly released audio message from the leader of al Qaida.

The announcement by Ayman al-Zawahri came in an audio message posted online in which he says a man he identifies as Zuhair al-Maghribi - who worked for As-Sahab, the terror network's media arm - is a "martyr".

He says al-Maghribi is one of several who "sacrificed their lives" but does not provide details of when or how they died.

Al-Maghribi is a known alias of Said Bahaji, who authorities have said worked for As-Sahab. He had been wanted on an international arrest warrant issued by Germany shortly after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Germany-born Bahaji, who is of Moroccan descent, is believed to have helped suicide hijackers Mohamad Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah when they were in Hamburg, and to have fled shortly before the September 11 attacks.

In an operation in 2009, the Pakistani military battled their way into a Taliban stronghold on the Afghan border and found Bahaji's German passport, among others.

It included a tourist visa for Pakistan and a stamp indicating he had arrived in the southern city of Karachi on September 4 2001.

The authenticity of the al-Zawahri recording could not be independently confirmed but it resembled previous messages released by the al Qaida leader.

SITE Intelligence Group, a US organisation that monitors militant messaging, reported on the recording, noting that in it, al-Zawahri also "revealed that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad", a senior al Qaida leader in US custody, founded As-Sahab.

Bahaji was long suspected of having died, but al Qaida never publicly acknowledged his death until al-Zawahri's audio recording.

In a list published by the United Nations Security Council of people and entities against whom there are sanctions, Bahaji is said to be "reportedly deceased in September 2013 in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border area".