HAMBURG, Germany, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- German federal prosecutors are investigating claims that the CIA planned to assassinate a Syrian-German suspected al-Qaida financier living in Hamburg.
Vanity Fair reports in its January issue that the CIA together with military contractor Blackwater, today called Xe, surveyed and secretly plotted to assassinate Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born man living in the northern German port city of Hamburg.
The report has angered officials here in Germany, who never classified Darkazanli, 51, as a security threat. Federal prosecutors have now launched an investigation. The German government has said it knew nothing about such an operation.
"If this commando really existed and the U.S. government knew about it but didn't notify our government then this would be a very grave incident," Deutsche Welle Online quoted Wolfgang Bosbach, a senior lawmaker of Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union, as saying.
In a lengthy article about Xe head Erik Prince, Vanity Fair writes that the CIA in 2005 ordered a team of Blackwater hit men to Hamburg, where they surveyed Darkazanli for months to eventually assassinate him. The magazine says neither Washington nor Berlin was informed.
U.S. intelligence officials believe Darkazanli has provided financing to al-Qaida. The businessman appeared in a wedding video with some of the terrorists who hijacked passenger planes on Sept. 11, 2001. However, German authorities did not consider him a threat. That's why the CIA stepped in to deal with him, the magazine writes.
Washington has called the Vanity Fair report "grossly exaggerated," adding that in 2005 it was eager to repair ties with Germany. An assassination would have greatly undermined that plan.
Germany's opposition politicians care mainly about whether the German government was involved in the alleged assassination plot.
"It can't be true that they knew nothing," Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Stroebele told daily newspaper Hamburger Abendblatt.
German police arrested Darkazanli in late 2004 after Spain issued a warrant accusing him of being a key figure in the al-Qaida terror network and a permanent contact of Osama bin Laden in Germany. Citing insufficient evidence that he really supported al-Qaida, Germany's highest court stopped his extradition and ordered his release.
Darkazanli told German public broadcaster ARD the new allegations left him "speechless."