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The attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001 overshadow every other terrorist activity in the United States. In Boston, we still hold on to the lingering memory of the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, 2013. However, a significant bombing orchestrated by Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, which is not often recognized, occurred at the World Trade Center in 1993. With Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman’s recent death in a U.S. prison, questions arise as to whether this event will instigate terrorist attacks in the near future in retaliation or commemoration of, in his followers’ eyes, his heroic and noble actions.

The 1993 World Trade Center bombing consisted of six now convicted men led by Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman who planned to topple the North Tower into the South Tower. The men packed a rented Ryder van full of 1,200 pounds of homemade explosives designed by their in-house Pakistani expert Ramzi Ahmed Yousef. Parking the van in an underground garage, they lit a fuse and fled the scene in a support vehicle that had been trailing them. On February 26, 1993 at 12:18 A.M., the explosives ignited, killing six people, injuring more than 1,000, and forcing approximately 50,000 to evacuate the building.

     Born to impoverished Egyptian merchants in the Nile Delta in 1938, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman was blind as a child, later gaining him the title “The Blind Cleric” for his religious endeavors. Abdel-Rahman faced criminal prosecution not only in the United States, but also in Egypt for blessing a group of Islamist militants and inspiring them to carry out an assassination attempt on Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat in 1981. He believed deeply that rulers who did not follow Islamic law must be killed, teachings that he brought to Afghanistan and Pakistan where he met and became close friends with Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks. Through his followers and relationships with other religious and terrorist leaders, “The Blind Cleric” had extensive, negative influence.

On February 18, 2017, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman died in a North Carolina federal prison at the age of 78 due to complications with diabetes and coronary artery disease. He was serving a life sentence on sedition charges along with nine other accomplices for plotting a spree of bombings in New York City, which fortunately never materialized. Despite this, prosecutors successfully connected him to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and to plots for other attacks in the New York area.

     Abdel-Rahman’s family argues that his caretakers failed to provide him with his medicine ultimately resulting in his death. This controversy may cause anger, but we exist in a world that has changed world since “The Blind Cleric” had great influence.

At the time of Abdel-Rahman’s death, he had been in solitary confinement for 21 years. The question remains whether Abdel-Rahman’s former followers have stayed loyal to him or have shifted their ideologies toward those of other radical Islamic leaders such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State, or Ayman al-Zawahiri of al-Qaeda. Hopefully, either of these circumstances caused by the death of “The Blind Cleric” will not provoke other attacks on innocent citizens and will undisputedly close a dark chapter in America’s encounters with terrorism.