According to German press reports, the Syrian rebel group Ahrar al-Sham secured the release of Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a German citizen of Syrian birth who worked as a recruiter for the “Hamburg” al-Qaeda cell that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks, from a Damascus prison at the end of 2013. He had been captured in Morocco in late 2001 and was deported to Syria, where the Assad regime detained him until now.
German intelligence interviewed him in 2002, but left him alone in Assad’s prison system. Now he’s free — to join the Syrian Islamist rebels with his impeccable jihadist credentials or . . . return to his wife and children in Germany, where he can live legally as a naturalized citizen on whom the statute of limitations for supporting a terrorist organization have expired.
He was released in a prison swap between the regime and Ahrar al-Sham, one of the largest members of the very loose coalition of Islamic rebel groups called the Islamic Front that’s been waging war against the regime and an al-Qaeda splinter group for the past few months. (The more moderate, foreign-friendly Free Syrian Army has been largely irrelevant.) Ahrar al-Sham is more closely tied to al-Qaeda than some of the other members of the Islamist coalition, which includes al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front.