Egypt’s ‘blind sheikh,’ known for role in 1993 WTC bombings, dies in US prison

Published February 19th, 2017 - 03:00 GMT
This file photo taken on June 25, 1993 shows Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (R) entering his apartment building with an unidentified man after afternoon prayers at his mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey. (AFP/Mark D. Phillips)
This file photo taken on June 25, 1993 shows Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman (R) entering his apartment building with an unidentified man after afternoon prayers at his mosque in Jersey City, New Jersey. (AFP/Mark D. Phillips)
A radical Egyptian preacher has died in a US prison while serving a sentence for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.

Omar Abdel-Rahman died aged-78, part way through a life sentence. For decades he had been a figurehead for Egypt's Salafi-jihadi movement, including the militant group al-Gamaa al-Islamiya.

Known as the "Blind Sheikh", Abdel-Rahman was a fiery and charismatic speaker who called for the murder of perceived opponents and the establishment of an Islamic state in Egypt.

He and his followers were linked to a string of attacks across the world.

Abdel-Rahman reportedly issued a fatwa against the secular Egyptian writer Farag Fouda who was later murdered.

He also was said to have issued a fatwa against former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who was assassinated in 1981.

The cleric was arrested and tortured in Egyptian prisons, before eventually fleeing the country and entering the US on a tourist visa.

He settled in New York where he attracted a significant following enamoured to his fundamentalist message and firebrand sermons.

Even in the Middle East, tapes of his talks were secretly shared among supporters, where he spoke repeatedly against Israel and the Egyptian government. 

The latter country witnessed an upsurge in violence against tourists, security forces and non-Muslims during the 1990s.

He was due to be deported when he was linked to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre in New York and sentenced to life in prison.

Copyright @ 2021 The New Arab.

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