Omar Abdel Rahman
Born: 3 May 1938;
Place of Birth: Al Gammaliyyah, Dakahlia Governorate, Egypt;
After studying the Quran in braille, Abdel-Rahman known as the “Blind Sheikh”, received a doctorate degree in Islamic jurisprudence from Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
Following the October 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, Abdel-Rahman was arrested and imprisoned for having previously penned a fatwa excommunicating Sadat, thereby laying the theological groundwork for his murder. Although Abdel-Rahman was discovered to have written the fatwa, he was acquitted of direct involvement in the murder, and was released from prison in 1984.
Subsequently he left Egypt for Afghanistan, where he joined the anti-Soviet jihadist movement and forged an alliance with al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.
On February 26, 1993, his followers bombed the World Trade Center in New York, killing six people and wounding more than 1,000 others. Abdel-Rahman was arrested four months later as part of the investigation, and was found to have been directly involved in plotting a thwarted “day of terror” in New York, in which terrorists would simultaneously bomb the United Nations building, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge, and the FBI headquarters.
Abdel-Rahman was also found to have plotted to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a 1993 visit to the United States, as well as a Jewish New York state legislator and a Jewish New York State Supreme Court justice.
Abdel-Rahman was accused of being the leader of Al-Jama’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 was responsible for many acts of violence, including the November 1997 Luxor massacre, in which 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians were killed.
He was convicted on 48 terrorism-related charges on 1 October 1995, and sentenced in 1996 to life in prison. In May 1998, al-Qaeda publicly released a fatwa by Abdel-Rahman urging all Muslims to “tear [Americans, Jews, and Christians] to pieces.” Presaging al-Qaeda’s USS Cole and 9/11 attacks, the fatwa continued: “Destroy their economies, burn their corporations, destroy their businesses, sink their ships and bring down their airplanes. Kill them in the sea, on land and in the air.”
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