The Blind Sheikh (Omar Abdel-Rahman): Egyptian Gama’a Islamiyya

Blind Sheikh aka Omar Abdel Rahman
Blind Sheikh aka Omar Abdel Rahman

Sheikh Gilani and MOA had extensive links to the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the leader of the Egyptian Gama’a Islamiyya terrorist group responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and a planned follow-up wave of bombings in New York City that was foiled. The Blind Sheikh’s group, Al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas were so intertwined at the time that they were essentially indistinguishable.

The Blind Sheikh’s group was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in 1997. It attacked Egyptian security personnel and government officials and Coptic Christians in the 1990s and tried to assassinate Egyptian President Mubarak in 1995. It also attacked tourists in Luxor, Egypt in 1997.[1]

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The relationship can only be understood in the context of the time. The Islamist terrorist networks in the U.S. had a nearly unified infrastructure with shared membership and extensive cooperation despite ideological differences. Our research indicates that MOA was more of an integral part of this infrastructure at the time of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing than has been usually understood.

Sheikh Gilani was emphasizing the need for MOA to work with other Islamist militants and formed a group called Soldiers of Allah for that purpose.[2] A close ally of Gilani and the Blind Sheikh, Sudanese cleric Hasan al-Turabi, was working hard to form a common Islamist front against the West. These efforts included a massive terrorist summit in Khartoum in 1993 that brought together jihadists of all stripes. Sheikh Gilani was seen there and initially attempted to keep his attendance secret.[3]

A likely intersection between the Blind Sheikh, MOA, Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas and Al-Qaeda happened in regards to paramilitary training. MOA had the camps and offered such training. At the same time, the Muslim Brotherhood was expressing its interest in guerrilla training on U.S. soil and the Blind Sheikh was actively arranging it. All four were components of the Al-Kifah Network that was involved in the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan.

This interconnections are reflected in a September 1993 report by the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare. It alleges that Fuqra/MOA is actually a front for the Pakistani ISI intelligence service. Sheikh Gilani is responsible for indoctrination and recruitment, but the training is overseen by an ISI operative named Brigadier Imtiaz and the ISI and Intelligence Bureau and involves instructors from Sudan.

It further reports, “It should be noted that Jilani and Imtiaz have no operational responsibility in the U.S., for this rests with Sheikh Umar Abd al-Rahman in New York.”[4]


Open Support for the Blind Sheikh

A MOA-affiliated source says that it was known that the Blind Sheikh was a “dear spiritual friend” of Gilani’s. The source says that Gilani ordered MOA members to stay up all night praying for the Blind Sheikh after he was arrested in 1993 and throughout his prosecution. Gilani told his followers that the Blind Sheikh was framed by the U.S. government.

MOA published a book in 1994 that denied that the Blind Sheikh had operational control of Sheikh Gilani’s American network but does not deny that an operational relationship exists. In fact, the language indicates that MOA sees the Blind Sheikh as an ally. It reads:

“Sheikh Abdul Rahman is a sheikh in his own right and has his own organization and followers. He is our Muslim brother and we are all part of the same Ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims.”[5]

The book also repeatedly attacks the “barrage of Zionist lies” against four Islamist leaders: Sheikh Gilani, the Blind Sheikh, Hasan al-Turabi (who is also linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing) and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.[6]


1981 Assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat

Sheikh Gilani claims to have had advance knowledge from Allah that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat would be assassinated on October 7, 1981.

The Blind Sheikh issued the fatwa authorizing Sadat’s murder. Another terrorist group named Egyptian Islamic Jihad is believed to have committed the assassination. Current Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad at the time and was arrested for illegal weapons possession. He was not charged with involvement in the murder.

Gilani claims that he had an out-of-body spiritual experience on September 3, 1981 and met the Prophet Muhammad, who then ordered a head of state to be killed on the date of the assassination. Gilani did not name Sadat by name but it is obvious who he was referring to.

He admits that he did not share his foreknowledge of the plot. He said that those honored with the spiritual status of a Fuqra cannot reveal the secret rulings of the Prophet Muhammad’s court. Gilani wrote, “throughout the period that the execution took place this information was kept secret.”[7]

Gilani writes in his first book that was distributed to his earliest followers,

We support the assassination of Sadat and those who were ‘martyred’ or ‘imprisoned’ in carrying out this mission, even though none of them knew about the decision or were inspired by the dream.”[8]

In later statements, Gilani would refer to being detained and questioned in Pakistan at the request of a foreign government due to his foreknowledge of an assassination. This is undeniably a reference to Sadat’s death and indicates that the Egyptian government considered him a suspect.


Direct Link Between Gilani and Blind Sheikh

David Bowers, the undersheriff in Chaffee County who played the leading role in investigating the Fuqra/MOA terrorist network in Colorado, says that they found a picture of Sheikh Gilani with the Blind Sheikh together when the MOA sites were raided. The two were seated next to each other and others were standing. It was determined that the picture was taken at the MOA’s Quranic Open University in Wallkill, New York.[9]

blindsheikhgilaniThe picture was in the possession of the MOA’s Mohammed Commandos’ Sector 5, a secret militant unit. This shows that MOA limited knowledge of the photo among its members but was somehow relevant for its terrorist unit. Convicted MOA terrorists James Upshur successfully fought to keep the photo from being accepted as evidence during his trial. He said he was being prosecuted because he’s black and a Muslim.

A MOA-affiliated source that spent years with the group in New York state confirmed that the group was closely associated with the Blind Sheikh’s group, including those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bomber. He said that someone involved from overseas came to New York and spent time with MOA. He believed it was the Blind Sheikh but was not present at the time.

One of MOA’s founders, Muhammad Hasib Haqq, said at a meeting with local law enforcement in 2002 that MOA had no links to the Blind Sheikh. Haqq said that he personally never met the Blind Sheikh and denied that he ever visited “us.” It is unclear if he was only referring to the Islamberg headquarters in Hancock or MOA entirely.[10]


Links Between the MOA Colorado Branch and the Blind Sheikh

The MOA branch in Colorado whose sites were raided in October 1992 for engaging in a wide range of criminal and terrorist activity had a large poster of the Blind Sheikh.[11] This is especially significant because of the group’s cultish devotion to Sheikh Gilani and aversion to anything resembling loyalty to another leader. The Blind Sheikh is the only leader besides Gilani to be upheld in this way.

A MOA-affiliated source with first-hand knowledge of the Colorado Fuqra members says that the group had extensive interactions with unknown Egyptians. The source said that no information was shared about these relationships. The involvement of the Egyptians was peculiar because the group consists almost entirely of African-American converts, not Arab-Americans or foreigners.

Two of the MOA Colorado members were found and apprehended very near to a camp in Pennsylvania that was used by “Blind Sheikh” members involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-up “Day of Terror” plots.

The Colorado branch was also involved in the murder of a controversial imam in Arizona. The surveillance team included an Al-Qaeda operative who had contact with at least one of the participants in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

A MOA-affiliated source says that the leader of the Colorado MOA, James D. Williams, took one of his regular trips to Pakistan in 1989 for four months. However, what was different this time is that he traveled with a non-MOA member from another Muslim community in the northern New Jersey area. MOA and Gama’a Islamiyya members both lived in the Jersey City area without conflict.

The pair also spent an unexpected three months upon his return in the New York and New Jersey area visiting with Muslims who did not belong to MOA. These meetings were never explained. After Williams returned to Colorado, there was an intense movement of members and greater security was implemented.

The source suggests that these events were related to a stronger relationship forming between Gilani and the Blind Shiekh. The source rejected the possibility that Williams or the Colorado MOA operatives were defecting to Blind Sheikh, saying they remained intensely loyal to Gilani and he encouraged MOA to be supportive of the Blind Sheikh.


1993 World Trade Center Bombing and “Day of Terror” Plots

A Unified Network

The “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman and Sudanese cleric Hasan al-Turabi, two allies of Sheikh Gilani, were linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-up “Day of Terror” plots to bomb the United Nations headquarters, FBI office and Holland and Lincoln Tunnels. [12]

A U.S. government source told the Clarion Project’s Ryan Mauro that she saw an internal memo placing partial responsibility for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing on Sheikh Gilani and Fuqra/MOA. Another law enforcement source involved in a Fuqra/MOA investigation recalls seeing a list of members that include about a dozen of the Blind Sheikh’s close associates.

MOA conceded in a book it published in the aftermath of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing that one or more of the terrorists involved in the bombing or the planned “Day of Terror” had attended Gilani’s mosque in New Jersey. It is a meaningful admission because the book is full of denials and conspiracy theories, yet the group decided it should not or could not deny this point.[13]

A 1993 State Department intelligence memo says the bombing was carried out by “devout” followers of the Blind Sheikh and Sheikh Gilani. It said that Fuqra is part of intertwined Islamist terror network. It reads:

“A close working relationship reportedly exists among [Gulbuddin] Hekmatyar, Egyptian Islamic Gama’at spiritual leader Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, Yemeni Islamic Jihad leader Sheikh Zindani and Sudanese National Islamic Front (NIF) leader Hassan al-Turabi. Sheikh Jilani, the leader of the Jama’at al-Fuqra based in Lahore, is also believed to have some ties to the mujahidin network. This circle of mutual admiration nurtures the network of safe havens, bases and logistical support.”

It said that Sheikh Gilani was in Peshawar, Pakistan at the time, although Fuqra was based in Lahore. It noted that the “Blind Sheikh” Rahman’s organization continued to have links to the “mujahidin hub” in Peshawar.[14]

Testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1998 by terrorism expert Steven Emerson likewise framed the bombing as the fruits of an interconnected Islamist network in America that included Fuqra/MOA:

“The culmination of this pan-Islamic militant partnership may have been seen in the World Trade Center bombing: Rather than being an attack dominated by the militant Islamic Jamaa from Egypt, evidence now shoes that the bombing was the product of collaboration from five different radical Islamic organizations, including the Gama Islamiya, Islamic Jihad, al-Fuqra, Sudanese National Islamic Front and Hamas.

The scope and breath of these militant Islamic groups should demonstrate unambiguously that, while not coordinated formally on an operational level, the militant Islamic groups network with one another in a sort of terrorist ‘internet.’”[15]


Wadih El-Hage

MOA is linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing through Wadih El-Hage, an Al-Qaeda operative who took part in MOA’s murder of a controversial imam in Tucson, Arizona in 1990. He was part of MOA’s surveillance team.

Hage developed Al-Qaeda cells in Arizona using the Al-Kifah Refugee Office network, which was intertwined with Fuqra/MOA and the Blind Sheikh. He met with an Egyptian named Mahmud Abouhalima at the Al-Kifah office in Oklahoma City. Abouhalima was later convicted of involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Hage became Usama Bin Laden’s secretary and was convicted of involvement in Al-Qaeda’s bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998.


Mujahid Menepta

Another connection is through reported MOA member Melvin Lattimore, also known as Mujahid Menepta. He lived at an address that was the centerpiece of a broader terrorist network that included Al-Qaeda and Hamas.[16]

Participants in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing were linked to Menepta. When it was discovered that they used his travel visa, he claimed it was stolen or copied. Author Mitchell Gray also obtained a docket sheet from the Southern District of New York that showed that Menepta had been investigated by counter-terrorism officials around the time of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and subsequent terrorist plots in New York and New Jersey. He was not charged. [17]

He is a close associate of Al-Qaeda operative Zacharias Moussaoui, who is suspected of being the “20th hijacker” who was unable to take part in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Moussaoui says that he was tasked with taking part in a follow-up wave of attacks.


Clement Hampton-El and Earl Grant

One member of Fuqra/MOA, Clement Hampton-El, was involved in the follow-up “Day of Terror” plots. He used the names of “Dr. Rashid,” “Rashid Hampton” and “Abdul Rashid Abdullah.”

Originally a member of the Nation of Islam, he was recruited for the jihad in Afghanistan and was a combat medic there for one year under the command of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (who had links to Gilani and ISI). He was wounded, went back home and immediately was involved with MOA. Law enforcement had an exceptionally tough time tracking him and determining his identity.

In May 1993, another Fuqra member named Earl Grant (also known as Abd Rashid or Abd Jalil) met with one of the “Day of Terror” plotters in Pennsylvania. Grant attempted to provide the terrorist cell with high-powered explosives but failed to obtain them. Hampton-El took the lead in determining what bombs to use and how to make or obtain them.[18]

In August 1993, the ATF arrested nine Islamists loyal to the Blind Sheikh that had four pipe bombs and 180 submachine guns, as well as automatic pistols. One of the guns was used in a drug-related murder in Brooklyn. The cell was led by Lamont Holder (also known as Massoud Shaheed). Hampton-El was the source of the pipe bombs.[19]

A MOA-affiliated source says there was conflicting stories about the level of involvement Hampton-El had in MOA, but all the accounts acknowledged that he was known well and considered to be a close “brother.”

A book published by MO in 1994 claimed that Hampton-El denied any affiliation with MOA, its Quranic Open University or even being affiliated with any MOA members. The text clams that the bombing was committed by a Satanic-Zionist conspiracy and the accused were framed.[20]

MOA and the Blind Sheikh’s group also crossed paths at a mysterious 35-acre Islamist training camp in Pennsylvania attended by some of those involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the “Day of Terror” plots. It has not been proven that the camp was part of the MOA network but it certainly is a stylistic match.


“Camp Terror” in New Bloomfield, PA

The camp in New Bloomfield in Perry County of Pennsylvania was owned by an African-American convert named Kelvin Smith. He was born in Brooklyn and raised in N.J. He converted in 1980 and moved from Harrisburg to the camp in Perry County in 1986. He went by the name of Abdul Muhaimin.

Smith was an officer with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service at the time and worked in an office that was one floor above the FBI field office headquarters in Harrisburg.[21] He was also a security guard and martial arts instructor at a military academy in New Bloomfield.

His farm was used as a business. It had a gun shop and firing range and he provided courses in firearms, hunting, camping, tracking and similar activities. He said it had about 200 customers annually, including Boy Scouts and members of law enforcement. He advertised his classes in mosques in N.Y. and N.J. in the early 1990s.

It is reported that MOA members worked with the Al-Kifah Network, a coalition of Islamist terrorist groups (including the Blind Sheikh’s group and Al-Qaeda), to set up the paramilitary camp in Pennsylvania. Those associated with the camp said they were recruiting and training to “help Muslims in Bosnia.”[22]

This may be the camp that was used by MOA members in preparing the plot to set off bombs at the Hindu Festival of Lights in Toronto in 1991. Seized videotapes showed them making explosives and firing guns at a training camp in the state.[23] There is no information about any other possible candidate.

Two of the MOA members from the Colorado terrorist training camp operation were arrested in 1992 very close to Smith’s farm.

Later that year, Smith’s camp was used as a paramilitary training site by a group of Muslims linked to the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman, the spiritual leader of the terrorists who committed the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and attempted to bomb four targets in New York City shortly thereafter.

The group of Islamist terrorists returned in early 1993 for four weekends of training. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, visited the camp twice in January and February shortly before the attack on February 26.[24]

Three Islamist terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing underwent paramilitary training at the camp. Smith said he recognized two of the eight arrested for plans to bomb targets in New York City who visited his camp four times since Feb. Some of those involved in the bombing and the foiled plots were part of Fuqra/MOA.

Smith said he did not know who they were. He said he thought they were preparing to fight in Bosnia.[25]

Another individual named Yahya Abu Ubaidah Muhammad, previously known as Karl Dexter Taylor, was involved with the Blind Sheikh’s group and was arrested in Queens in February 1995 for delivering guns to the camp. He bought six assault weapons at a Virginia gun show in November 1992 and gave them to the group that trained at the site.[26]

Yahya Abu Ubaidah lived in the same apartment building as Clement Hampton-El, a reported MOA member involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.[27] Ubaidah also had a martial arts school inside the building and instructed at Smith’s camp. He utilized his experience from serving two tours in the Vietnam War as a Marine.[28] The training included simulating attacks on power substations,[29] which documents seized from MOA show they also prepared for attacks on substations and likely committed one in Colorado.

Neighbors recalled seeing vans with N.Y. and N.J. license plates arriving at Smith’s camp. The guests were armed with rifles and wearing military camouflage and trained at nighttime.

Smith was approached by the FBI for information shortly before the bombing. He told the agents that he had no contact information for the trainees. During the discussion, he said that he is proud to serve in law enforcement but is “Muslim first” above all else. He then used a government-issued secure line that he had access to from being in the U.S. Fish & Wildfire Service to warn them that they had been indicted.

The camp was raided on June 26, 1993, as was Smith’s home in Centre Township. The FBI confiscated firearms from Smith’s vehicle. Media outlets dubbed the site “Camp Terror.”

Smith was found to have destroyed crucial evidence by throwing four semiautomatic rifles into the Delaware River. The authorities also searched his pond for weapons. An attendee of the training told the FBI that the group hid or disposed weapons at the camp.

It is believed that he used the money he earned from the trainees to buy ammunition and weapons, including assault rifles, for them to use on the property. He also used his Federal Wildlife Officer discount to purchase repelling equipment for one of the trainees in Brooklyn after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing took place. He lied to the FBI and said that all the weapons on his camp belonged to him.

Smith pled guilty in 1999 to lying to the FBI during the investigation and destroying evidence. He was sentenced to 366 days in prison.[30]

Smith denied belonging to Fuqra, answering the question by saying he is a Sunni Muslim. However, all MOA members deny Fuqra’s existence and identify as a Sunni-Sufi. Other MOA members have replied by saying they are Sunni when questioned.

Footnotes and Citations Below.


WMBlindSheikhReleaseDoc
blind-sheikh-docs

[1] “Country Reports on Terrorism 2015.” (2015). State Department Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism. http://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2015/257523.htm

[2] The “Soldiers of Allah” video is available on the Fuqra Files YouTube channel and is discussed in detail in the section of this website about guerilla training.

[3] Footage from the summit, including an interview with Sheikh Gilani, was in the award-winning “Seeds of Terror” documentary that can be watched on the Fuqra Files YouTube channel.

[4] Richard J. Leitner and Peter M. Leitner. (2010). Unheeded Warnings. Crossbow.

[5] Target Islam: Exposing the Malicious Conspiracy of the Zionists Against the World of Islam and Prominent Muslim Leaders. (1994). Quranic Open University and Pakistan Foundation for Strategic Studies.

[6] Id.

[7] Jilani, Mubarak Ali. (1981). Futuhat-i-Muhammadiyah. Quranic Research Institute of Pakistan: Lahore.

[8] Id.

[9] Our interview with David Bowers can be read in the section of this website for first-hand testimony.

[10] Video of the meeting can be seen on the Fuqra Files YouTube channel.

[11] For more information on the Colorado Fuqra’s terrorist and criminal activity, see the section of this website about MOA activity in Colorado.

[12] Al-Fuqra: Holy Warriors of Terrorism.” (1993). Anti-Defamation League: http://archive.adl.org/extremism/moa/al-fuqra.pdf

[13] Target Islam: Exposing the Malicious Conspiracy of the Zionists Against the World of Islam and Prominent Muslim Leaders. (1994). Quranic Open University and Pakistan Foundation for Strategic Studies.

[14] “The Wandering Mujahidin: Armed and Dangerous.” (1993). State Department Intelligence and Research Bureau.

[15] “Foreign Terrorists in America: Five Years After the World Trade Center.” (1998). Hearing before the Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism and Government Information of the Committee of the Judiciary. United States Senate.

[16] More information is available on this Oklahoma network in the section of this website that breaks down MOA activity by state.

[17] Gray, Mitchell. (2015). I Heard You Were Going on Jihad. Mill City Press.

[18] Richard J. Leitner and Peter M. Leitner. (2010). Unheeded Warnings. Crossbow. The information comes from a U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare report.

[19] Richard J. Leitner and Peter M. Leitner. (2010). Unheeded Warnings. Crossbow. The information comes from a U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare report.

[20] Target Islam: Exposing the Malicious Conspiracy of the Zionists Against the World of Islam and Prominent Muslim Leaders. (1994). Quranic Open University and Pakistan Foundation for Strategic Studies.

[21] Kiner, Deb. (2015). ISIS Arrest Was Not Midstate’s First Brush with Terrorism. Penn Live. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/12/isis_arrest_was_not_midstates.html

[22] Martines, Lawrence J. (2010). Jam’at Al-Fuqra, a.k.a. Society of the Impoverished. Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International. Vo. 8, No. 3.

[23] Martines, Lawrence J. (2010). Jam’at Al-Fuqra, a.k.a. Society of the Impoverished. Journal of Counterterrorism and Homeland Security International. Vo. 8, No. 3.

[24] 3 Suspects Recalled at Firing Range / Site Owner Cooperates with FBI. (1993). Associated Press. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/12/isis_arrest_was_not_midstates.html

[25] Kiner, Deb. (2015). ISIS Arrest Was Not Midstate’s First Brush with Terrorism. Penn Live. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/12/isis_arrest_was_not_midstates.html

[26] McKinley, James. (1995). Man Tied to Sedition Case Held in Gun-Running. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/22/nyregion/man-tied-to-sedition-case-held-in-gun-running.html

[27] McKinley, James. (1995). Man Tied to Sedition Case Held in Gun-Running. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1995/02/22/nyregion/man-tied-to-sedition-case-held-in-gun-running.html

[28] Goldman, John J. (1995). FBI Arrests Man Accused of Training Bomb Suspects. Los Angeles Times. http://articles.latimes.com/1995-02-22/news/mn-34711_1_training-camp

[29] Kohlmann, Evan. (2004). Al-Qaida’s Jihad in Europe. Bloomsbury Academic.

[30] Kiner, Deb. (2015). ISIS Arrest Was Not Midstate’s First Brush with Terrorism. Penn Live. http://www.pennlive.com/news/2015/12/isis_arrest_was_not_midstates.html

 

Blind Sheikh

Blind Sheikh

 


Other Notable Articles

Connecting dots between two of the two biggest terror attacks on U.S. soil, by Andrew McCarthy, Prosecutor. Available at National Review (June 14, 2016) (Regarding the Blind Sheikh Tie to Orlando ISIS-inspired terrorist, Omar Mateen).

“According to Fox News, Omar Mateen, the jihadist who carried out the mass-murder attack at a gay nightclub in Florida this weekend, was a student of Marcus Robertson, an Orlando-based radical Muslim who once served as a bodyguard to Omar Abdel Rahman — the notorious “Blind Sheikh” whom I prosecuted for terrorism crimes in the early to mid 1990s…”

Read more here or at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/436590/omar


 

in Links to Other Islamist Groups