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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Zawahiri Calls For Release of American Jihadist El Sayyid Nosair

El Sayyid NosairThe latest audio communique from Al Qaeda's top leader Ayman Al Zawahiri calls for the release of one of the earliest American jihadists to carry out violence on U.S. soil, Egyptian-born American citizen El Sayyid Nosair.

From CNN:
Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has claimed responsibility for the capture in August of a 70-year-old American citizen in Pakistan, according to SITE, a website that monitors terrorist threats.

"Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al Qaeda and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who is neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the '70s," al-Zawahiri said, according to SITE.

The al Qaeda leader also listed demands that needed to be met before he would release Warren Weinstein. The demands included the ending of airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also added that Muslim prisoners including Abu Musab al-Suri, the "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdul Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, Sayyid Nosair, and the family of Osama bin Laden must also be released.
Nosair was a follower and sometimes rival of the "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman. Born in Egypt, he immigrated to the United States and became a citizen. In the waning years of the jihad against the Soviet Union, he helped organize training in Jersey City nominally intended to prepare people to fight in Afghanistan. In reality, many of his trainees used their new skills to carry out terrorism on American soil, including the World Trade Center bombing and a thwarted follow-up plot that targeted New York City landmarks and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels.

The training provided by Nosair was supplemented by Ali Mohamed, a follower of Zawahiri who later became closely affiliated with Al Qaeda. Mohamed was, at the time, an active duty sergeant in the U.S. Army. He brought with him military manuals and sensitive materials stolen from Fort Bragg, where he was stationed.

Jihadist violence was not unknown on U.S. soil prior to Nosair. Jamaat Al Fuqra, a mostly American radical group that originated in New York, had firebombed religious facilities used by Hindus, Hare Krishnas and Ahmadiyya Muslims (a sect they believed to be apostate). Members of Al Fuqra murdered a liberal Arizona Muslim imam in early 1990.

But Nosair was the first American jihadist to make national headlines. In November 1990, Nosair shot and killed Meir Kahane, a radical Jewish leader, during a public meeting. Although the shooting was witnessed by dozens, eyewitnesses could not identify Nosair at trial and he was convicted only on a firearms charge. After the World Trade Center bombing, Nosair was convicted of conspiracy alongside Abdel-Rahman for helping orchestrate a terrorist conspiracy before he was arrested and continuing even after his imprisonment, as several members of Rahman's terrorist cell visited Nosair in prison to received for advice and ideas.

Although Nosair was connected to Al Qaeda through Mohamed, there is no indication he was ever formally affiliated with the group. But Osama bin Laden personally donated $20,000 to Nosair's defense fund, illustrating the group's long interest in his case. A recent video by Al Qaeda urging "lone wolf" terrorist attacks in the United States specifically cited Nosair as a role model who should be emulated.

Although most Americans have long forgotten Nosair, Al Qaeda clearly has not, illustrating the importance of understanding the early development of the jihadist movement in the United States.

For more about Nosair, Al Fuqra and other early American jihadists, check out J.M. Berger's new book, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, on sale everywhere.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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