Radical Cleric Heard On Tape
NEW YORK (AP) _ A radical Egyptian cleric whose followers are suspected of bombing the World Trade Center and planning more terrorism was recorded by an informant on tapes seized by the FBI, a newspaper reported today.
Authorities hope to use the tapes to build a case against Sheik Omar Abdel- Rahman, though many of his comments are indecipherable, according to the Daily News of New York, which quoted unidentified sources.
Some U.S. Justice Department officials have called for the immediate arrest of the blind cleric, who lives in Jersey City, N.J., and preaches in New Jersey and New York.
That was ruled out because ″they didn’t want to make a martyr out of him,″ a source told the News.
Abdel-Rahman’s apartment was raided Thursday hours after the Joint Terrorist Task Force arrested eight Muslim fundamentalists suspected of plotting to blow up the United Nations and the Holland and Lincoln tunnels, all in New York City.
The alleged mastermind, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, sometimes acted as the sheik’s interpreter, and several of the other suspects attended services where he preached, according to news reports.
Authorities said two of the eight told an informant they had a hand in planning the Feb. 26 bombing of the World Trade Center that killed 6 people.
Several suspects in the Trade Center bombing were also followers of the sheik, authorities have said.
Thursday’s arrests were made with the help of the informant, identified by several newspapers as Emad Salem, 43, a former Egyptian military officer and occasional bodyguard and translator for the sheik.
The tapes recorded by the informant were the basis for the search warrant executed at the sheik’s apartment, the News said.
Various news reports, citing unidentified law-enforcement sources, said Salem is now under protective custody.
The FBI removed boxes of documents, books and cassette tapes from the sheik’s apartment. Law enforcement sources told the News that the material also will be used in building a case against Abdel-Rahman.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, R-N.Y., urged President Clinton on Friday to detain or deport the sheik, the News reported. The senator, feared to be a target of the terrorists, said Clinton told him ″I’ll look into it.″
The president called D’Amato to express concern that the senator might have been a target, the newspaper said.