Body of Egypt’s ‘Blind Sheikh’ brought home from US

Omar Abdel Rahman, who died in a US federal prison, was accused of conspiring to blow up the United Nations and several New York City landmarks.

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CAIRO // The body of a blind Egyptian cleric convicted of plotting terror attacks in New York was brought back to Egypt and handed over to his family for burial on Wednesday.

Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheikh, died in a US federal prison over the weekend.

He was arrested in 1993 and convicted two years later along with nine followers, accused of conspiring to blow up the United Nations and several New York City landmarks. He was serving a life sentence in prison when he died on Saturday.

He was the spiritual leader of Gamaa Islamiya, the most feared militant group in Egypt in the 1980s and 1990s, and fled to the US in 1990.

Dozens of his followers, along with his son Mohammed, daughter Asmaa and other family and relatives, waited at the Cairo airport to receive the body and take it to his hometown in Dakahliya province.

Cairo airport official Medhat Kandil confirmed that Abdel Rahman’s body had been handed over to the family.

Another son, Ibrahim, said his father had wished to be buried in his Nile Delta town of Gamaliya.

In the US, the cleric – who lost his eyesight in infancy from diabetes – was convicted of involvement in a broad terrorist plot that includes the February 26, 1993, truck bombing of New York’s World Trade Centre that killed six people – eight years before Al Qaeda’s suicide plane hijackers brought the towers down.

He was also convicted of plotting a string of bombings against the UN, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington bridge and other New York landmarks, and of plotting to kill Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president at the time.

In 1981, Abdel Rahman was arrested in Egypt and tried for involvement in the assassination of former president Anwar Al Sadat, which was carried out by Gamaa Islamiya. He was acquitted and released in 1984. * Associated Press