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The Blind Sheikh: A Flashpoint for Terror 20 Years After the World Trade Center Bombing

Just how dangerous is the blind Sheikh?

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After the killing, FBI agents seized forty-seven boxes of evidence from Nosair’s home in Cliffside Park, New Jersey, proving that a bombing conspiracy was afoot with the WTC as a target. Among the files were maps of the Twin Towers. A passage inside Nosair’s notebook called for the “destruction of the enemies of Allah… by… exploding… their high world buildings.” There’s little doubt that the blind Sheikh was the instigator, demanding, in one of his sermons that his followers “mount steeds of war (and) strike terror into the enemies of Islam.”

Then within months, the Sheikh began to quarrel with Mustafa Shalabi, the Egyptian émigré who ran the Alkifah Center at the al Farooq mosque on Atlantic Avenue. The Alkifah was the principal U.S. office of the Makhtab al-Khidamat (MAK), a worldwide network where millions of dollars in cash was collected to support the Afghan war against the Soviets.

After the MAK’s founder was killed by a car bomb, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri merged their new terror network with the MAK and soon al-Qaeda had what amounted to a New York clubhouse at Shalabi’s Alkifah Center. But even after the Soviets had withdrawn from Kabul, hundreds of thousands of dollar in cash continued to flow into the MAK and it didn’t take long for Sheikh Omar to covet the fortune controlled by Mustafa Shalabi.

Even though Shalabi had sponsored Sheikh Omar’s entry into the United States, he balked when the blind cleric demanded half of the center’s one million dollars in annual income. After that, the Sheikh began denouncing him as a “bad Muslim” even suggesting that his fellow Egyptian was embezzling the Alkifah’s funds.

On February 26, 1991, sensing that his life was in danger, Shalabi hurriedly packed for a flight to Cairo, where his family was waiting. He never made it to the airport. A few days later, a neighbor of Shalabi’s noticed that the door to his Sea Gate, Brooklyn, apartment was open. The Alkifah director was sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood.

“He was knifed, shot and beaten with a baseball bat,” said former Joint Terrorism Task Force investigator Det. Tommy Corrigan. “This wasn’t some genteel thing. He was made an example of.”

Connecting the dots on 9/11

With two acts of homicide linked to the blind Sheikh within a year of his arrival in New York, the FBI soon uncovered a pattern of evidence that, properly analyzed, might have forewarned of the September 11th attacks a decade later. The first “dot” surfaced when the Feds identified Sphinx Trading, a check-cashing story in Jersey City where both Sheikh Omar and El Sayyid Nosair had mailboxes. Sphinx was located in a building on Kennedy Boulevard several doors away from the blind cleric’s al-Salaam mosque. 

The second “dot” became known in 1994 after the feds compiled  a list of 172 un-indicted co-conspirators in the “Day of Terror” case in which the Sheikh and eleven others were indicted for a plot to blow up the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan, the U.N. and 26 Federal Plaza which houses the FBI’s New York Office (NYO). Named on that list along with Osama bin Laden and Mustafa Shalabi was Waleed al-Noor, co-incorporator of Sphinx Trading.

Flashing forward to July of 2011 and the third “dot” — Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, two of the hijackers who flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, obtained the fake I.D.’s they used to board that flight at Sphinx Trading. Who did they get them from? None other than Mohammed El-Attriss, another Egyptian who was al-Noor’s partner  in the incorporation of the check-cashing store.

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