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Egypt’s ‘Blind Sheikh’ dies in prison in the US

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman was commonly known as "The Blind Sheikh". He was a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who was serving a life sentence in North Carolina, United States
Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman was commonly known as "The Blind Sheikh". He was a blind Egyptian Muslim leader who was serving a life sentence in North Carolina, United States

The spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamist militant group Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya Omar Abdel-Rahman has died in his US prison after serving more than 20 years for seditious conspiracy to commit murder.

Abdel-Rahman, also known as the “Blind Sheikh”, was serving a life sentence in the United States for his role in masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Saudi-owned Al Arabiya reported.

Reuters news agency reported Abdel-Rahman’s son confirming the death, while his daughter Asmaa Abdel-Rahman also confirmed the news on Twitter saying in an Arabic language tweet that “Allah has taken the soul of Sheikh Omar”.

The 78-year-old spiritual leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, or the Islamic Group, was revered within militant circles in Egypt during the 1980s and 1990s. He was charged on suspicion of involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, which he was acquitted of involvement later.

Abdel-Rahman would then travel to the US in 1990 where he preached in Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey mosques, according to federal prosecutors.

He would be convicted five years later on charges of conspiring to “levy a war of urban terrorism against the United States,” including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which killed six people, and a plan to blow up the United Nations headquarters and other New York City landmarks.

While Al-Gama’a Al-Islamiyya is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and its allies, the group renounced violence in 2003 and committed itself to engaging in the political process following the ouster of former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, whom they attempted to assassinate in 1995.

Following the Egyptian revolution against Mubarak in 2011, the group formed a political party called the Building and Development Party and gained 13 seats in the 2012 parliamentary elections.

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