Definitions

declared lawful

Omar Abdel-Rahman

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (عمر عبد الرحمن) (born May 3, 1938) is a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who is currently serving a life sentence at the Butner Medical Center which is part of the Butner Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina, United States. His inmate registration number is 34892-054. Formerly a resident of New York City, Abdel-Rahman and nine others were convicted of "seditious conspiracy" , which requires only that a crime be planned, not that it necessarily be attempted. His prosecution grew out of investigations of the World Trade Center 1993 bombings.

Abdel-Rahman is the leader of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya (also known as "The Islamic Group"), a militant Islamist movement in Egypt that is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Egyptian governments. The group is responsible for many acts of violence, including the November 1997 Luxor massacre, in which 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed.

Abdel-Rahman has declared that the United States "certainly will kill me" in jail.

Youth

Abdel-Rahman was born in Egypt in 1938 and lost his eyesight at a young age due to childhood diabetes. He studied a Braille version of the Qur'an as a child and developed an interest in the works of the Islamic purists Ibn Taymiyah and Sayyid Qutb. After graduating in Qur'anic studies from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Egyptian government imprisoned him because he was an opponent of the regime. Abdel-Rahman became one of the most prominent and outspoken Muslim clerics to denounce Egypt’s secularism.

Prison in Egypt

During the 1970s, Abdel-Rahman developed close ties with two of Egypt’s most militant organizations, Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya ("The Islamic Group"). By the 1980s, he had emerged as the leader of Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, although he was still revered by followers of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which at the time was being led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, later to become an Al Qaeda principal. Abdel-Rahman spent three years in Egyptian jails where he was severely tortured as he awaited trial on charges of issuing a fatwa resulting in the 1981 assassination of Anwar Sadat by Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

Afghan mujaheddin

Although Abdel-Rahman was not convicted of conspiracy in the Sadat assassination, he was expelled from Egypt following his acquittal. He made his way to Afghanistan in the mid-1980s where he contacted his former professor, Abdullah Azzam, co-founder of Maktab al-Khadamat (MAK) along with Osama bin Laden. Rahman built a strong rapport with bin Laden during the Afghan war against the Soviets, and following Azzam’s murder in 1989 Rahman assumed control of the international jihadists arm of MAK/Al Qaeda.

In July 1990, Rahman went to New York City to gain control of MAK’s financial and organizational infrastructure in the United States.

Activities in the US

Abdel-Rahman was issued a tourist visa to visit the US despite his name being listed on a US State Department terrorist watch list. Rahman entered the United States, in July 1990, via Saudi Arabia, Peshawar, and Sudan.

He traveled widely in the United States and Canada. Despite the U.S. support for the mujahideen in Afghanistan, Abdel-Rahman was deeply anti-American and spoke out against it, safe in the knowledge that he was speaking Arabic and unmonitored by any law enforcement agency. He issued a fatwa in America that declared lawful the robbing of banks and killing of Jews in America. His sermons condemned Americans as the "descendants of apes and pigs who have been feeding from the dining tables of the Zionists, Communists, and colonialists". He called on Muslims to assail the West, "cut the transportation of their countries, tear it apart, destroy their economy, burn their companies, eliminate their interests, sink their ships, shoot down their planes, kill them on the sea, air, or land".

Preaching at three mosques in the New York City area, Abdel-Rahman was soon surrounded by a core group of devoted followers that included persons who became responsible for the World Trade Center 1993 bombings. One of Rahman's followers, El Sayyid Nosair, was linked to the assassination of Israeli nationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the militant Jewish Defense League. He was subsequently acquitted of murder but convicted on gun possession charges.

Nosair later stood trial as a co-conspirator of Rahman. Both men received life sentences for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, conspiracy to use explosives against New York landmarks, and plotting to assassinate U.S. politicians. Nosair received life plus 15 years of imprisonment. Nosair's relatives obtained funds to pay for Nosair's defense from Osama bin Laden.

After the first World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, the FBI began to investigate Rahman and his followers more closely. With the assistance of an Egyptian informant wearing a listening device, the FBI managed to record Rahman issuing a fatwa encouraging acts of violence against US civilian targets, particularly in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area. The most startling plan, the government charged, was to set off five bombs in 10 minutes, blowing up the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and a federal building housing the FBI. (See New York City landmark bomb plot.) Government prosecutors showed videotapes of defendants mixing bomb ingredients in a garage before their arrest in 1993. Rahman was arrested on June 24, 1993, along with nine of his followers. On October 1, 1995, he was convicted of seditious conspiracy, and in 1996 was sentenced to life in prison.

Legacy

Abdel-Rahman’s imprisonment has become a rallying point for Islamic militants around the world, including Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. In 1997, members of his group Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya conducted two attacks against European visitors to Egypt, including the massacre of 58 tourists at Deir el-Bahri in Luxor. In addition to killing women and children, the attackers mutilated a number of bodies and distributed leaflets throughout the scene demanding Rahman’s release.

In 2005, members of Rahman’s legal team, including attorney Lynne Stewart, were convicted of facilitating communication between the imprisoned Sheikh and members of the terrorist organization Al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt.

References

See also

Further reading

  • Gunaratna, R. 2002 ‘Inside Al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror’. Scribe Publications: Carlton.
  • Lance, P. 2003 ‘1000 Years For Revenge: International Terrorism and The FBI’. HarperCollins: New York

External links

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