THE SHEIK'S REWARD
Will the CIA Come Clean About Abdel Rahman?
By Robert I. Friedman
Several prominent law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of
anonymity, say that it appears that Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman was allowed to
enter the United States because of his support for the mujahedeen -- the
fractious coalition of CIA-backed Islamic extremists who fought the Soviet
army in Afghanistan and later the moderate regime in Kabul.
The Voice revealed last week that in 1990 Abdel Rahman left Egypt for
Peshawar, Pakistan, where he met rebel Afghan leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar,
who was already providing training for the sheikh's militant fundamentalist
terrorist group in Egypt, Al Gamaat al Islamia. The rebel camps were
"schools for Jihad," where fundamentalists from across the Muslim world
received courses in everything from making car bombs to shooting down
planes with American-made Stinger missiles. After several months in
Peshawar, Abdel Rahman traveled to Khartoum, Sudan, where he received a
U.S. tourist visa, despite his presence on a State Department terrorist
watch-list that should have barred him from the country. In America, where
he was also granted a green card, Abdel Rahman raised funds and recruits
for the mujahedeen, many of them first-generation Muslim immigrants living
in Brooklyn and New Jersey. One was Mahmud Abouhalima, a World Trade
Center bombing suspect and an Afghan war veteran.
Not only did the sheikh encourage his flock of Muslim zealots to fight the
godless Russians in Afghanistan, but he also exhorted his followers in
Egypt to wage a terror campaign against Hosni Mubarak's secular government.
In a CNN interview Monday, Mubarak said that a current wave of terror
bombings in Egypt was being funded by a U.S. group tied to Abdel Rahman.
"There is an association in New Jersey collecting a lot of money for the
refugees in Afghanistan," said Mubarak. "All this money is now being
channeled to those extremists [in Egypt]."
But even as the Egyptian government begged the U.S. not to coddle the
sheikh, who was smuggling cassettes of his fiery speeches into Egypt --
much the way Ayatollah Khomeini did from his safe-haven in France before
the fall of the shah -- Abdel Rahman was also denouncing his patron,
America, as the root of all evil.
Although the sheikh is apparently at the heart of a far-flung terrorist
conspiracy, he is not considered a suspect in the World Trade Center
bombing. Incredibly, the FBI has not even questioned him about the blast,
and only last week was he reportedly placed under round-the-clock federal
"My gut feeling is that we are protecting the sheikh," says a law-
enforcement source familiar with the case. "We got him a visa as a reward
for his help in Afghanistan."
The source worries that the FBI appears to be shutting down the
investigation prematurely. "My ears perked up when I heard the FBI say
that they have apprehended all but one of the World Trade Center bombers,"
he says. "These guys [the suspects) don't look like self-starters to me."
Professionals from abroad, he says, may have assisted the suspects.
The FBI already has been criticized for failing to untangle the terrorist
web around El Sayyid Nosair, following the murder of the Zionist demagogue
Rabbi Meir Kahane. Just 12 hours after Kahane's shooting, the government
was espousing the theory that Nosair was a lone gunman, despite having
found considerable evidence that appeared to link him to a wider terrorist
Sheikh Abdel Rahman causes chaos wherever he goes. In Egypt, his
organization assassinated Anwar Sadat. Though acquitted himself, be was
imprisoned three times during the 1980s. He finally left his homeland in
1990. After a pilgrimage to Mecca, he traveled to Baghdad, where Egyptian
authorities believe he may have been involved in the planning of the
unsuccessful assassination of Egyptian Interior Minister Mohammed Abdel-
Abdel Rahman later slipped into Pakistan, where he forged operational links
with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the head of a radical rebel Afghan army backed by
the CIA. Hekmatyar's career in politics began in 1972, when as an
engineering student at Kabul University, he founded the Young Muslims,
which advocated turning Afghanistan into a single-party Islamic republic
based on the Sharia, or Islamic law. In June 1974, Hekmatyar fled to
Pakistan after a government crackdown on Islamic fundamentalists.
Hekmatyar immediately began to call for the armed overthrow of Afghanistan
-- an idea that won the approval of Pakistani leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,
who supplied Hekmatyar with arms, training, and money. Hekmatyar
orchestrated an insurrection in Afghanistan in 1975, but it was crushed.
Many of his followers subsequently joined him in Peshawar.
By 1979, six fundamentalist Muslim Afghani rebel groups were operating in
Peshawar. Hekmatyar's was by far the largest and most important, thanks
to the support of his newest Pakistani patron, President Mohammed Zia. At
the time, the Soviet-backed, Marxist government in Afghanistan was
attempting to weaken the hold of the traditional religious elite, who for
centuries had ruled the countryside. The Afghani Marxists even went so
far as to remove the Islamic green from the Afghani flag. Hekmatyar
resisted, waging a fierce terrorist war. In December 1979, the Soviets,
fearing the violence would spill across their borders, invaded Afghanistan.
Afghani president Hafizullah Amin was killed in the royal palace by Soviet
troops, and replaced by Babrak Karmal, an exile who had been living in
Hekmatyar's relationship with Abdel Rahman began around the time of the
Soviet invasion. Hekmatyar, who had only cursory religious training, drewhis inspiration from the sheikh's attempts to overthrow Sadat and his call
for a pure Islamic state, where women would be veiled and children would be
scrupulously taught by mullahs.
During Abdel Rahman's visit to Peshawar in 1990, the two charismatic
leaders talked about spreading their holy war beyond the Muslim world into
America, say several well-placed sources. But one of their most pressing
concerns were the Islamic republics of the Soviet Union. As early as 1987,
Hekmotyar's warriors were fighting Soviet troops in Soviet Tajikistan,
according to the Washington Times. Meanwhile, the CIA spent lavishly on
the Afghan rebels. In 1987 alone, the mujahedeen received $640 million --
a sum matched by the Saudis. Additional funds were raised in the Gulf and
among Abdel Rahman's American disciples. At the same time, the U.S. was
building up the Iraqi war machine. When U.S. aid to the mujahedeen stopped
in late December 1990 as part of an accord with Moscow, the ragtag army of
Islamic fundamentalists turned its wrath on America. Around the same time,
Iraq swallowed Kuwait, forcing America into the Gulf War.
It is not surprising the U.S. government is attempting to cover up its
relationship with Abdel Rahman. It may take a congressional investigation
to unearth the extent of the sheikh's ties to U.S. intelligence. Last
week's report in the Voice about CIA links to Abdel Rahman has "CIA
officials running for cover," says a source close to the agency.
Instead of ducking, the CIA should tell law enforcement what it knows about
Abdel Rahman and his American followers. CIA files might shed light on the
letter to The New York Times from the Liberation Army Fifth Battalion,
which declared that the World Trade Center bombing was in retaliation for
America's support for Israel and pro-Western Arab regimes. The letter
threatened that the bombings would continue unless America suspended aid to
Israel. Authorities told the Times that the letter was prepared by one of
the five suspects in custody.
Some terrorism experts fear that the World Trade Center bombing is the
first round in radical Islam's war against America. They point to a wave
of bombings in Paris in 1985 and 1986 that was masterminded by Tehran, and
facilitated by Iranian students and small businessmen living in France.
While the locals provided safehouses, bomb-making materials, and other
logistical support, professional terrorists from abroad carried out the
bombings and fled. The French government later struck a secret deal with
the Khomeini regime. France took a more "neutral" position in the Iran-
Iraq war and released several imprisoned Iranians. In return, the bombings
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