Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh

Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh

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Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (sometimes known as Umar Sheikh, Sheikh Omar, Sheik Syed, or by the alias "Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad") (born December 23, 1973) is a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

-born militant of Pakistani descent with links to various Islamist militant organisations, including Jaish-e-Mohammed
Jaish-e-Mohammed
Jaish-e-Mohammed is a Pakistani-based, militant Islamic group established by Maulana Masood Azhar in March 2000...

, al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen- al-Islami is a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group operating primarily in Kashmir. In 1997, the United States designated Harakat al-Ansar a foreign terrorist organization for links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and in response the organization changed its name to...

 and the Taliban.

He was arrested and served time in prison for the 1994 kidnappings of Western tourists in India
1994 kidnappings of Western tourists in India
The 1994 Kidnappings of Western tourists in India was the abduction of four tourists in New Delhi, India on October 20, 1994 by Kashmiri separatists.-Background:...

, an act which he acknowledges. He was released from captivity in 1999 and provided safe passage into Afghanistan with the support of Taliban in exchange for passengers aboard hijacked Indian Airlines Flight 814
Indian Airlines Flight 814
Indian Airlines Flight 814 commonly known as IC 814 was an Indian Airlines Airbus A300 en route from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India on Friday, December 24, 1999, when it was hijacked...

. He is most well known for his role in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl was an American journalist who was kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaeda.At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, India. He went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between...

. Sheikh Omar Saeed was arrested by Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

i police on February 12, 2002, in Lahore
Lahore
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

, in conjunction with the Pearl kidnapping, and was sentenced to death on July 15, 2002 for killing Pearl. His judicial appeal has not yet been heard. The delay has been ascribed to his purported links with MI6
Secret Intelligence Service
The Secret Intelligence Service is responsible for supplying the British Government with foreign intelligence. Alongside the internal Security Service , the Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence Intelligence , it operates under the formal direction of the Joint Intelligence...

.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf
Pervez Musharraf , is a retired four-star general who served as the 13th Chief of Army Staff and tenth President of Pakistan as well as tenth Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee. Musharraf headed and led an administrative military government from October 1999 till August 2007. He ruled...

, in his book In the Line of Fire
In the Line of Fire (book)
In the Line of Fire: A Memoir is a book that was written by former President of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf and first published on September 25, 2006...

, stated that Sheikh was originally recruited by British intelligence agency, MI6, while studying at the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

. He alleges Omar Sheikh was sent to the Balkans by MI6 to engage in jihadi operations. Musharraf later went on to state, "At some point, he probably became a rogue or double agent
Double agent
A double agent, commonly abbreviated referral of double secret agent, is a counterintelligence term used to designate an employee of a secret service or organization, whose primary aim is to spy on the target organization, but who in fact is a member of that same target organization oneself. They...

".

His complicity in the murder and the reasons behind it are in dispute. At his initial court appearance, he stated, "I don't want to defend this case. I did this... Right or wrong, I had my reasons. I think that our country shouldn't be catering to America's needs", but he subsequently appealed his conviction and is awaiting further progress while in prison. Sheikh's lawyer has stated he will base his client's appeal on the recent admission of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that he is the killer of Daniel Pearl.

He is currently being held in prison in Pakistan.

Early life


In his youth he attended Forest School, Walthamstow
Forest School, Walthamstow
Forest School is an independent school on the edge of Epping Forest, in Walthamstow in North East London, in the UK. The School occupies a large campus based around the original Georgian and Victorian buildings.-History:...

, an independent school in North-East London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, whose alumni include English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 captain Nasser Hussain
Nasser Hussain
Nasser Hussain OBE is a former Essex and England cricketer.Beginning his career in a strong Essex side in the late 1980s, he was an outstanding fielder and a stylish but inconsistent batsman. In first-class cricket from 1987 to 2004 Hussain scored 20,698 runs in 334 matches at an average of 42.06,...

 and Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway, CBE is a British film director. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular...

, the filmmaker. Between the ages of 14 and 16 he attended Aitchison College
Aitchison College
Aitchison College, Lahore, is one of the most prestigious educational institutions of its kind in South Asia. Established in 1886, it has retained its character over the years, maintaining the public school tradition of providing an education that uses academics, sports and co-curricular activities...

, the most exclusive boys boarding school in Pakistan, where his family had temporarily relocated. He later returned to the United Kingdom to continue at Forest School. He told school friends that he had been in Pakistan learning about jihad, but was not believed. He was a fine chess-player and won a junior London championship. Later, he attended the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

, where he studied Applied Mathematics and Economics.

Kidnapping of American and British nationals, 1994


He served five years in prison in Ghaziabad in the 1990s in connection with the 1994 abduction of three British travellers, Myles Croston, 28, Paul Rideout, 26 and Rhys Partridge, 27, and one American, Béla Nuss, 43.

Hijacking and release from prison


In 1999, Indian Airlines Flight 814
Indian Airlines Flight 814
Indian Airlines Flight 814 commonly known as IC 814 was an Indian Airlines Airbus A300 en route from Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal to Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India on Friday, December 24, 1999, when it was hijacked...

 was hijacked from Nepal. Its hijackers demanded his release along with Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, who were leaders of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen- al-Islami is a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group operating primarily in Kashmir. In 1997, the United States designated Harakat al-Ansar a foreign terrorist organization for links to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and in response the organization changed its name to...

, to Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

. The plane landed in Kandahar and Taliban militia surrounded the plane, pre-empting any Indian commando operation.
After negotiations between the Indian government and the hijackers, the hostages were freed eight days after the hijacking occurred, although a passenger by the name of Ripan Katyal was stabbed to death by one of the hijackers. Omar Sheikh along with the two other prisoners were released in exchange for the hostages.

Media descriptions


The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

describes Saeed Sheikh as "no ordinary terrorist but a man who has connections that reach high into Pakistan's military and intelligence elite and into the innermost circles of Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization." According to ABC
American Broadcasting Company
The American Broadcasting Company is an American commercial broadcasting television network. Created in 1943 from the former NBC Blue radio network, ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Company and is part of Disney-ABC Television Group. Its first broadcast on television was in 1948...

, Sheikh began working for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence
Inter-Services Intelligence
The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence , is Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, responsible for providing critical national security intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan...

 (ISI) in 1993. By 1994 he was operating training camps in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and had earned the title of bin Laden's "special son.".

In May 2002, the Washington Post quotes an unnamed Pakistani as saying that the ISI paid Sheikh's legal fees during his 1994 trial in India on charges of kidnap.

In 2008, National Geographic Adventure
National Geographic Adventure
National Geographic Adventure, formerly known as Adventure One but now commonly known as Nat Geo Adventure, is a subscription TV channel part of National Geographic Channels International and News Corporation...

 aired a show called Banged up Abroad
Banged Up Abroad
Banged Up Abroad is a British documentary/docudrama television series created by Bart Layton that was produced for Channel Five and that premiered in March 2006...

: Hostage to Terror" in which Sheikh is depicted. His shown as Rohit fake name by which he was cheating on foreign nationals, implicating that he was using fake Hindu identity to gain trust of his foreign targets.

Connection with 9/11 hijackers


On October 6, 2001, a senior-level U.S. government official, told CNN
CNN
Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

 that U.S. investigators had discovered Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Sheik Syed), using the alias "Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad" had sent about $100,000 from the United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates, abbreviated as the UAE, or shortened to "the Emirates", is a state situated in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia on the Persian Gulf, bordering Oman, and Saudi Arabia, and sharing sea borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, and Iran.The UAE is a...

 to Mohamed Atta
Mohamed Atta
Mohamed Mohamed el-Amir Awad el-Sayed Atta was one of the masterminds and the ringleader of the September 11 attacks who served as the hijacker-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11, crashing the plane into the North Tower of the World Trade Center as part of the coordinated attacks.Born in 1968...

. "Investigators said Atta then distributed the funds to conspirators in Florida in the weeks before the deadliest acts of terrorism on U.S. soil that destroyed the World Trade Center, heavily damaged the Pentagon and left thousands dead. In addition, sources have said Atta sent thousands of dollars—believed to be excess funds from the operation—back to Saeed in the United Arab Emirates in the days before September 11. CNN later confirmed this.

The 9/11 Commission's Final Report states that the source of the funds "remains unknown."

More than a month after the money transfer was discovered, the head of ISI, General Mahmud Ahmed resigned from his position. It was reported that the Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency . The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime...

 (FBI) was investigating the possibility that Gen. Ahmed ordered Saeed Sheikh to send the $100,000 to Atta

The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal
The Wall Street Journal is an American English-language international daily newspaper. It is published in New York City by Dow Jones & Company, a division of News Corporation, along with the Asian and European editions of the Journal....

was one of the only Western news organizations to follow up on the story, citing the Times of India: "US authorities sought General Mahmud Ahmed's removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 was wired to WTC hijacker Mohamed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of General Mahmud." Another Indian newspaper, the Daily Excelsior, quoting FBI sources, reported that the "FBI’s examination of the hard disk of the cellphone company Omar Sheikh had subscribed to led to the discovery of the "link" between him and the deposed chief of the Pakistani ISI, Mahmud Ahmed. And as the FBI investigators delved deep, reports surfaced with regard to the transfer of $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, one of the terrorists who flew a hijacked Boeing commercial airliner into the World Trade Center. General Mahmud Ahmed, the FBI investigators found, fully knew about the transfer of money to Atta."

U.S. investigators later said that this was a confusion with Mustafa al-Hawsawi
Mustafa al-Hawsawi
Mustafa al-Hawsawi is a member of the militant Islamic organization al-Qaeda and allegedly an organizer and financer of the September 11 attacks....

, also known as Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, who is currently held in Guantanamo Bay.

The Pittsburgh Tribune notes that there "are many in Musharraf's government who believe that Saeed Sheikh's power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA."

Sheikh rose to prominence with the 2002 killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl
Daniel Pearl was an American journalist who was kidnapped and killed by Al-Qaeda.At the time of his kidnapping, Pearl served as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal, and was based in Mumbai, India. He went to Pakistan as part of an investigation into the alleged links between...

, who at the time was in Pakistan investigating connections between the ISI and Islamic militant groups. In Pakistan, Sheikh was sentenced to death for killing Pearl, however his complicity in the execution and the reasons behind it are in dispute.

Pearl kidnapping


Sheikh Omar Saeed was arrested by Pakistani police on February 12, 2002, in Lahore
Lahore
Lahore is the capital of the Pakistani province of Punjab and the second largest city in the country. With a rich and fabulous history dating back to over a thousand years ago, Lahore is no doubt Pakistan's cultural capital. One of the most densely populated cities in the world, Lahore remains a...

, in conjunction with the Pearl kidnapping. Pearl had been kidnapped, had his throat slit, and then been beheaded. Sheikh told the Pakistani court, however, that he had surrendered to the Inter-Services Intelligence
Inter-Services Intelligence
The Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence , is Pakistan's premier intelligence agency, responsible for providing critical national security intelligence assessment to the Government of Pakistan...

 Agency a week earlier.

Sheikh's lawyer Abdul Waheed Katpar claims Sheikh was arrested on February 5, 2002 and not on February 12, and that evidence against the four suspects was fabricated by Pakistani police while the suspects were held in secret for a week. He also claims confessions were obtained under duress of torture and solitary confinement.

Hoax calls nearly trigger war


In the aftermath of the 2008 Mumbai attacks
2008 Mumbai attacks
The 2008 Mumbai attacks were more than 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks across Mumbai, India's largest city, by Islamist attackers who came from Pakistan...

 tensions increased dramatically between India and Pakistan. On November 28, a hoax caller pretending to be Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee
Pranab Mukherjee
Pranab Kumar Mukherjee is the current Finance Minister of India and leader of the current Lok Sabha.Mukherjee is a senior member of the Cabinet Committees on Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Parliamentary Affairs, Political Affairs, Prices, Security, Unique Identification Authority of India,...

 threatened Pakistan President Zardari with war, leading to the Pakistan military being put in high alert. Military aircraft with live ammunition were scrambled to patrol above Islamabad and Rawalpindi. The same caller tried to get in touch with the real Pranab Mukherjee and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice is an American political scientist and diplomat. She served as the 66th United States Secretary of State, and was the second person to hold that office in the administration of President George W. Bush...

 by claiming he was President Zardari but was unable to get through to either.

A year after the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan's Dawn
Dawn (newspaper)
Dawn is Pakistan's oldest and most widely read English-language newspaper. One of the country's two largest English-language dailies, it is the flagship of the Dawn Group of Newspapers, published by Pakistan Herald Publications, which also owns the Herald, a magazine, the evening paper The Star and...

newspaper revealed that the hoax caller had been Omar Saeed Sheikh. Using a cell phone he had smuggled into his prison cell, Omar Sheikh made the calls using a British SIM card. After the source of the hoax calls became known intelligence agents confiscated Omar Sheikh's illegal phones and SIM cards.

External links