Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Followers, Relatives of Gamaa Islamiya’s Founder Mourn his Death | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Relatives and friends of “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel-Rahman carry his coffin after funeral prayers at the Grand Mosque in the Nile Delta town of Gamaleya, Egypt, on Feb. 22, 2017. (AP Photo/Mostafa Albasuni)

El-Gamaleya – Memories ruled the eulogies of relatives and supporters of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman as he was laid to rest in his hometown in el-Gamaleya, Egypt.

The sheikh was serving a life sentence in the U.S. for conspiring in the 1993 New York bombings and hadn’t returned to Egypt since then.

Abdul Rahman is known as the spiritual leader of Gamaa Islamiya which has resorted to violence against the Egyptian government for several years, killing hundreds of policemen, civilians, and foreign tourists.

He was arrested in 1981 for conspiring and aiding in the assassination of late President Anwar al-Sadat.

Omar, his 29-year-old son, said that his father hadn’t been allowed to speak to his children. U.S. authorities made sure his wife answered the phone as she was the only one allowed to talk to him.

He added that his father suffered medical conditions while in prison, and there had been several attempts to transport him to Egypt, especially during former President Barack Obama’s tenure, but they were never completed.

Thousands of mourners gathered on Wednesday in his hometown in Dakahliya province for the funeral of the blind sheikh who lost his eyesight due to childhood diabetes.

He died of natural causes on Saturday at the age of 78 at a Federal Medical Centre in North Carolina, where he was serving his life sentence.

Dozens of his followers, along with his son Mohammed, daughter Asmaa and other family members and relatives, waited at the Cairo International Airport Wednesday to receive the body and transport it to his hometown for the funeral the same day.

More than 2,000 people attended the funeral.

Movements across the Islamist spectrum from the Muslim Brotherhood to al-Qaeda issued statements mourning him, and several officials from Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya attended the ceremony.

A relative said that the sheikh had wished to be buried in his Nile Delta town of Gamaliya next to his mother.

Sheikh Nabil Abdul Rahman reported how he was imprisoned with the sheikh in the case of the assassination of Sadat, and then how he was released and re-arrested during the presidency of Mubarak. He said they were then transported to Abu Zebel political prison after which they began their journey to Afghanistan.

Sayyid Mohammed, who is one of his neighbors, said he used to accompany the sheikh to his Quran lessons. He described him as highly respected and appreciated by everyone in his hometown.