German Officials Argue for New Security Law

German authorities are investigating a link that ties the alleged London bombing plot to Hamburg. Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks in the U.S., German authorities are arguing for a new law to make information about potential terrorists accessible to all law enforcement.

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The investigation of the London bombing plot has led to Germany now. Authorities are tracing an alleged plan to blow up transatlantic airliners. German investigators say at least one of the people detained in London made contact with a person in Hamburg, Germany.

E-mail or telephone messages went to the same city that was a base for the 9/11 hijackers. And the messages went to a woman in Hamburg with links to those earlier hijackers.

NPR's Emily Harris reports.

EMILY HARRIS reporting:

Nese Bahaji first became publicly known when German police raided her apartment in the middle of the night shortly after September 11th, 2001. Cordilla Meijer(ph), a reporter for Der Spiegel magazine, was there.

Ms. CORDILLA MEIJER (Reporter, Der Spiegel Magazine): It was a very dramatic scene. She was all in her black chador, and she was carrying her baby covered in red silk. And she was led to the police to be interrogated.

HARRIS: That scene happened outside an apartment a few blocks from the infamous Marienstrasse 54, where many of the 9/11 hijackers lived. Nese's husband, Said Bahaji, is wanted on charges of helping plan the attack. He lived at Marienstrasse 54 before he got married.

(Soundbite of singing)

Unidentified Crowd: (Singing) (Foreign language spoken)

A video taken at the Bahaji wedding several years ago shows, according to U.S. and German investigators, several 9/11 hijackers and Ramzi Bin al Shibh, a suspected mastermind of the attackers, who is now in U.S. custody in an undisclosed country. Said Bahaji's whereabouts are unknown. Nese, meanwhile, has moved into a quiet Hamburg suburb.

Unidentified Man: (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: A frozen food delivery service comes regularly to the neighborhood, serving especially the many older people here.

(Soundbite of street cleaner)

HARRIS: Street cleaners do the rounds, although there are just a few leaves to brush off the tidy, narrow street.

(Soundbite of baby crying)

Unidentified Woman: (Speaking foreign language)

HARRIS: Atya Nuftya(ph) comforts her 4-year-old son, Max(ph), who fell on a nettle plant. She's a neighbor of Bahaji. She says their children occasionally play together, although Bahaji stays inside a lot. Nuftya says Bahaji lives with her parents. She describes Nese as the daughter, and Said Bahaji as the man police are after.

Ms. ATYA NUFTYA (Neighbor of Nese Bahaji): Sometimes the police is here and ask the people about the daughter and the man, and it's sometimes we're - it's a little bit scared.

HARRIS: Lace curtains cover all the front windows at Bahaji's small white home on one end of an attached row. A woman answered a ring but didn't open the door. She asked to be left alone, and said she'd call the police otherwise.

Nese Bahaji's lawyer says all reports of communication between his client and suspects in London are wrong. No official has said on the record exactly what is under investigation in Germany. The interior minister and others have only confirmed that some leads from London are being checked in Germany.

Manfred Murck is deputy chief of the intelligence service in Hamburg. He wouldn't comment directly on the reports of London ties to Bahaji. But if they are true, he said, it doesn't mean the contact was about a planned operation.

Mr. MANFRED MURCK (Deputy Chief, Domestic Intelligence Service, Hamburg, Germany): It is not - for us it's not very significant if some kind of contact. If you search ten Muslims in Berlin or if you search ten Muslims in London, where you - and you can search them by random if they come from the more radical scene - you will find contacts between them. You see what I mean? It's a network.

HARRIS: Officials here think that network includes Said Bahaji, who they believe is in Pakistan. But watching his wife may not be the way to find him. Her lawyer says, earlier this year, she told Said she wanted nothing more to do with him. German and U.S. officials certainly do.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Hamburg.

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