House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Michael McCaul told Breitbart News on Friday that it’s “no surprise” Algerian terrorists are demanding a swap of the Blind Sheikh for American hostages.
Militants seized a BP natural gas facility in Algeria on Wednesday, taking several people – including Americans – hostage.
Some of those hostages were killed, but now a French news agency reports that the militant groups want to swap two American hostages for the release of convicted terrorist Omar Abdul Rahman – better known as the “Blind Sheikh.”
“The terrorist attack in Algeria, stemming from the continued rise of Al Qaeda in North Africa, should present a renewed call for vigilance to our Intelligence Community and the Department of Homeland Security both at home and abroad,” McCaul said in an email. “These terrorists may be across an ocean from us, but their attacks abroad have a direct effect on our homeland. Reports that these terrorists are attempting to broker the release of the Blind Sheikh come as no surprise.”
The Blind Sheikh is a convicted terrorist currently serving a life prison sentence in a North Carolina federal penitentiary. He was sent to prison in the mid-1990s for his role in the 1993 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. In that attack, six people were killed and hundreds were injured after a truck bomb was set off in the building’s garage. Islamists, including Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, have advocated for the release of the Blind Sheikh from U.S. custody.
“I want him to be free,” Morsi said in a recent CNN interview, adding that he “respect[s] the law. And the rule of law in Egypt and the United States.”
While the Obama administration publicly denies considering releasing the Blind Sheikh, many Republicans and national security leaders suspect the president may cut a deal to release him. McCaul and other House Republican leaders have raised questions about the matter, signaling they remain suspicious.
On Friday, McCaul told Breitbart News he’s urging Obama “to stand firm against pleas from Egypt to free Omar Abdel Rahman.”
“Releasing a terrorist who plotted against the United States and has American blood on his hands would be seen as a sign of weakness throughout the Muslim extremist world and will only serve to embolden our enemies who continue to plot against us,” McCaul asserted.
Andrew C. McCarthy, the former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York who’s perhaps best known for successfully prosecuting the Blind Sheikh, predicted in September that the plan was always to release the Blind Sheikh after the November presidential election whether Obama won or lost.
“I think the plan has been to agree to the Blind Sheikh’s release, but not to announce it or have it become public until after the election,” McCarthy said then. “That is consistent with Obama’s pattern of trying to mollify Islamists. Obviously, they did not want this information to surface yet… but sometimes a situation can spin out of control.”