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Joan Neuhaus Schaan

Cairo Protests, the Blind Sheikh and Benghazi

Thankfully, Congress is demanding answers to all that transpired the week of September 10th 2012. The analysis can be parsed into multiple pieces: what led up to the events in Benghazi in the months before the attack, what occurred in the hours just prior to during and after the attack, and what has transpired since the attack. One of the egregious narratives floated at the time of the attack was the storyline of an off-color video touching off spontaneous protests.

The protest in Cairo was about the release of Sheikh Omar Abd al Rahman, “the Blind Sheikh” and not the video.

The protest was organized by Muhammed al Zawahiri (the brother of Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri), and relatives of the Blind Sheikh. In addition, the day prior to the Cairo protests, Ayman Zawahiri had called retribution for the killing of Abu Yahya al Libi and the imprisonment of the Blind Sheikh, including burning down the American embassy in Cairo if necessary. Despite this threat, little effort was made to protect the Cairo embassy as protestors breached the perimeter, burned the American flag, and replaced it with the jihadi flag.


Other reports similarly indicate the attack was retribution for the imprisonment of the Blind Sheikh.

Why is the Blind Sheikh imprisoned in the United States? Because the Blind Sheikh was behind the 1993 World Trade Center, issued fatwa for 911, and issued fatwa for assassination of Hosni Mubarak, among other things. He arrived on our shores in the early 1980’s under political asylum. He was compelled to leave Egypt due to his ties to the assassination of Anwar Sadat.

Egypt’s President Morsi (aka Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate) has set a goal for the Blind Sheikh’s release. Other occasions, President Morsi (aka Mursi) called for the release of the Blind Sheikh. To understand President Morsi’s intentions, one needs only recall his campaign for President, videos of which have been captured by MEMRI, and one of which can be watched by following a link in the article found here.

Other than the proclamation from the head of Al Qaeda, are there other ties between Cairo and Benghazi? Possibly yes. First, some press reports indicate the security at the U.S. Benghazi compound was in contact with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the days of the attack. There were three layers of the security at the compound: the U.S. Diplomatic Security Officers, Blue Mountain and the February 17th Brigade militia. Some reports indicate the U.S. State Department had experienced internal debates and contract issues resulting from Blue Mountain’s possible Muslim Brotherhood ties in Egypt. Further reports imply Blue Mountain may have worked with the attackers. Second, a document from Rep. Issa’s prior hearing links the February 17th Brigade in Benghazi that was protecting the mission to the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.

The name of the Blind Sheikh was not unfamiliar in Libya. The attacks on the British diplomat, U.S. mission and Red Cross in Benghazi in May 2012 and June 2012 had been carried out by the Blind Sheikh Brigade.

The question remains “What negotiations has this administration had with the Egyptian government about the Blind Sheikh?” In September, Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesman, was compelled to make a statement that there had been no recent discussion of the release of the Blind Sheikh. (Emphasis added.) This begs the question of the definition of ‘recent’ and ‘release.’

The Blind Sheikh thread has not ended with Benghazi and Cairo.The attacks at Ain Amenas in Algeria called for the release of the Blind Sheikh and Aafia Siddiqui. In January 2013 , Morsi was still working towards the release of the Blind Sheikh.

Is this one of the many elements to the Benghazi fiasco that some hope will not see the light of day? Is it a much broader set of issues that have been obscured? Perhaps we will learn more this week.