The mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, known as the 'blind sheikh' has died in a US prison at the age of 78. While Egyptians might remember him as the sheikh who was first arrested in Egypt for releasing a fatwa prohibiting praying at President Nasser's funeral.
Egyptian terrorist, Omar Abdel-Rahman, popularly known as the 'blind sheikh' has died in a US Federal prison on Saturday, where he was serving a life sentence for his involvement in 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Reports have emerged that Abdel-Rahman's remains will be flown to Egypt to be buried in his hometown of Dakahlia in accordance with his will, his son tells El Arabiya.
The 78-year old sheikh was born in the Egyptian governorate of Dakahlia in 1938. After losing his eyesight at 10 months old, he went on to study a Braille version of the Q'uran, which he fully memorised by the age of 11. Abdel-Rahman earned a doctorate in Quranic interpretation and became an outspoken opponent of president Gamal Abdel Nasser's regime, which he denounced as secular and anti-Islam.
Abdel-Rahman was first arrested by Egyptian security forces shortly after releasing a fatwa prohibiting praying at President Nasser's funeral, designating it as a sin.
He was later released and began teaching at Islamic universities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia until he was arrested again in 1981 and was detained on charges alleging his involvement in the assassination of President Anwar El Sadat, but was acquitted of all charges after spending 3 years in prison.
Abdel-Rahman was considered a spiritual leader of Al Gama'a Al Islamiya, a hard-line Islamists group that carried on a number of terrorist attacks in Egypt in the 1990s, most recognisably the Luxor Massacre of 1997, in which 58 tourists and four Egyptians were killed. He has, however, been supportive of Al Gama'a's reconciliation with the Egyptian government towards the end of the 90s, which ended a decade of terror in Egypt.
After residing in New York for a few years, Abdel-Rahman was arrested by the FBI on charges of plotting a terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, the biggest terrorism case in US history at the time. He has been in federal prisons ever since.
In his first ever speech after becoming president in 2012, Egypt's former president, Mohamed Morsi, vowed to exert all possible effort in order to get Sheikh Abdel-Rahman released from US prisons.
Sheikh Abdel-Rahman remains are expected to arrive in Egypt this week.
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