You can read our coverage of the reported release of Mohammed Zammar, an al Qaeda operative who recruited the 9/11 suicide hijack pilots, over at The Long War Journal. Multiple reports say that Zammar was released in exchange for Syrian army officers. John Rosenthal has an excellent write-up of Zammar’s release at Al-Monitor.
I warned that jihadists in Syria were seeking to free Zammar, on two occasions during congressional hearings last year.
On May 22, 2013, I testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. You can read my written testimony submitted for the hearing, which was titled “Assessing the Threat to the Homeland from al Qaeda Operations in Iran and Syria,” here. I briefly mentioned Zammar and the history of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood in my written testimony, pointing out that a significant number of Syrian Muslim Brothers (including Zammar) went on to become key al Qaeda operatives.
I went further in my oral testimony: “[I would] take a keen interest in trying to find out, if I were sitting in your shoes, where he is today and if there’s any classified information which I’m not privy to about where he is and where he’s going because Zammar was directly involved in 9/11, he was imprisoned in Syria, and I would — I would take a deep concern about where he is today.”
Although I didn’t specifically say so during the May 2013 hearing, I had heard rumblings out of Syria that al Qaeda-linked factions were going to attempt a prisoner swap.
So, I warned about this again during a hearing on Sept. 10, 2013 before the full House Committee on Homeland Security. The hearing was titled, “Implications of Syria Situation for Homeland Security,” and you can read my testimony here. I wrote:
“We should wonder what happened to Mohammed Zammar, an al Qaeda recruiter who helped convince the 9/11 Hamburg cell to travel to Afghanistan for training. Zammar was once imprisoned by the Assad regime and may very well be free today.”
I didn’t know where Zammar was at the time, or if he was still imprisoned. But an account in the Syrian media on Sept. 26, 2013, just over two weeks after my testimony, indicated that Zammar was among the prisoners swapped for Syrian army officers.
As I warned, the jihadists were in fact trying to free Zammar.