Blind Sheikh’s Death Sparks Calls for Revenge

Al-Qa’ida affiliates, specifically al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), are calling for retaliatory attacks in response to the death of Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel Rahman—often referred to as “the Blind Sheikh.” On Saturday, Rahman died at a federal prison in North Carolina where he was serving a life sentence for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which killed six and injured about 1,000.

  • One day after Rahman’s death, AQAP and AQIM issued a joint statement through their respective Telegram channels eulogizing him and urging fighters to take revenge in the “most vicious way possible.” The statement also encouraged followers to execute Rahman’s will and inspire future generations to avenge his death.
  • In the ninth issue of al-Qa’ida’s newsletter Al-Nafir—released on Saturday—the group includes Rahman’s “Will to the Ummah of Islam,” published in 1998, discussing the poor treatment he received in prison and declaring the United States was targeting Islamic scholars.

Since Rahman’s conviction in 1995, al-Qa’ida and its affiliates have routinely called for his release and attributed specific attacks to his incarceration.

  • During an assault on a natural gas plant in Algeria in 2013, AQIM commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar demanded Rahman’s release in exchange for hostages. The following year, AQAP executed an American photojournalist held hostage in Yemen over Rahman’s continued incarceration, according to a senior AQAP official.

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