DANGEROUS TERRORISTS ESCAPE DURING EGYPTIAN UPRISING: U.S INTELLIGENCE FOCUSES ON THREA T
BY ELLEN CANNON
On February 8, 2011, Vice President of Egypt, Omar Suleiman informed reporters that “senior jihadists may have escaped from prison in the midst of the Egyptian uprising.”(Eli Lake, “U.S. checks Egyptian prisons for terrorist escapes,” The Washington Times, February 10, 2011, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/feb/10/us-checks-p)
The Egyptian government has reported that more than 17,000 prisoners escaped from prisons that were destroyed during the 18 days of the revolution. Top Egyptian officials have warned that senior jihadists may be among them.
Vice President Suleiman stated that this “is a very serious matter. We must use every bit of strength to bring them back to prison.”
Former Deputy of National Security under President George W. Bush, Juan Zarate, told the Washington Times:” The U.S. government has been very concerned about who has broken out and where they are…They are a mixture of problematic violent Islamic jihadists who have been in Egyptian jails and custody who we would not want to see let go.” (Eli Lake, Washington Times, February 8, 2011)
Four U.S. terrorist experts as well as Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, the Director of the Center for Terrorism Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, concur and warn that hundreds or thousands of escaped Al Qaeda terrorists may be unaccounted for. They strongly suggest that members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihadists have escaped and are potentially regrouping as well as making their way back into Pakistan to rejoin active cells to continue their terrorist activities.
Deputy Secretary of State, James Steinberg underscores the serious nature of the situation. He told The Washington Times that “the U.S. was monitoring the situation closely. The U.S. intelligence community is closely monitoring the state of Egypt’s highest security prisons trying to track down dozens of senior members of Al Qaeda, the Islamic Group, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad to find out whether any have escaped and where they have gone.”
Locating Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman, the son of the “Blind Sheik”, who is the spiritual leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and mastermind of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, is a major priority for U.S.and Egyptian officials. The son, Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman is reported to have been captured in Pakistan and sent on to Egypt. (“Profile: Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, www.historycommons.org/entity/jsp?entity=rick_newcomb)
Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman’s farther, the Blind Sheik, was convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York landmarks. According to a report in History Commons, Mohammed the son was heard to say while his father was in prison, “the best way to free my father from U.S. prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages.” (“Profile: Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman,“www,historycommons.org?entity.jsp?entity=rick_newcomb)
These words were passed on to President Bush in a briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” in August 2001. The message and briefing were confirmed by Bob Woodward and Dennis Eggen of The Washington Post on May 18, 2002. (“August Memo focused on Attacks in US, www.washington post.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article)
Woodward and Eggen note that by 1999 a report prepared for the National Intelligence Council warned “that terrorists associated with Bin Laden might hijack an airplane and crash it into the Pentagon, White House and CIA Headquarters.” In addition, the report suggested that “suicide bombers belonging to Al Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high exploisves (c-4 and semtex) in to the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA or the White House.
By May 1998 the Blind Sheik, then serving life in prison, is said to have given his Will to his sons in the hope that his “holy” message would be widely distributed to his followers. The Will is a call for violent revenge against the West, its economies, its corporations, and major institutions. In particular the Blind Sheik called for killing the West on air, sea, and land.” (www.historycommons.org)
Journalist Peter Bergen is given a copy of the message and reported that while he could not confirm that the Blind Sheik wrote the message, it quickly became the major ideological call to “attack the U.S., its economy and American aviation.” Bergen refers to the Will, which is disseminated by the sons, as the “nearest equivalent Al Qaeda has to an ex cathedra statement by the Pope”.(Peter Bergan, CNN , 11/18/98)
On September 21, 2000, Al Qaeda leaders vow to ‘Spill Blood’ to free the Blind Sheik. The Blind Sheik’s son, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman is heard to say on a tape broadcast by Al Jazeera, “Oh brothers, everywhere, avenge your leaders, avenge your Sheik. Let’s go to the grounds of jihad. Let us spill blood. Let us go spill.” ( “Profile of Mohammed Omar Abdule-Rahman, www.historycommons.org/p.5)
Since the late 1970’s, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) worked to overthrow the government of Egypt. The group focused on armed attacks against Egyptian government personnel and official Egyptian and U.S. facilities. It has active networks in Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Lebanon, and the United Kingdom.
The EIJ claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of Egyptian Interior Minister Hassan Al-Alfi in 1993.
The EIJ is believed to have caused the bombing in 1995 at the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad as well as a foiled attack on the U.S. embassy in Albania. (“Investigating Terror Organizations: Egyptian Islamic Jihad, news.bbc.co.uk/hi/English/static/in_depth/world/2001/War)
Mohammed Atta, one of the key hijackers in the 9/11 bombings, is a known member of the EIJ.
Two additional prisoners that the U.S. is monitoring are Mohammed Hassan Mahmoud and Shawky Salama Mostafa, both leaders in the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.(Eli Lake, The Washington Times)
News of these escapees came during the same week that Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security. On February 8, 2011 she told the Committee “the terrorist threat to the U.S.may be at its most heightened state” since the September 11, 2001 attacks, and Al Qaeda and its affiliates are placing increased emphasis on recruiting Americans and Westerners to carry out attacks.” (Peter Finn, washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02)