The Associated Press
NEW YORK Ä The CIA brought the blind cleric accused of masterminding a terror campaign against the U.S. government into the country to rally support for Islamic fundamentalists fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan, New York magazine reports.
The CIA sponsored Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman's visits to ''jihad offices'' around the United States starting in 1986, the magazine says in its March 27 issue, without specifying its sources.
The ''jihad,'' or holy war, offices were American outposts for the CIA-funded Mujahedeen fighting the occupying Soviets. The war ended in 1989.
Speculation about the Egyptian cleric's relationship with the U.S. government has abounded for years, despite denials by the CIA and other U.S. agencies that they have any connection with him.
The apparent ease with which he entered and left the country has fueled the speculation.
Although Abdel-Rahman's name should have been added to the State Department's list of terrorist suspects after he was acquitted in connection with the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, that did not happen until 1987.
Between 1986 and 1990, he received at least three visas to enter the United States. Eventually he received permanent resident status.
In 1990, a CIA officer serving at the U.S. Embassy in Sudan unwittingly approved Abdel-Rahman's tourist visa, the State Department determined in 1993.
CIA spokesman Vin Swayze said Saturday that the agency would have no comment on the magazine report.
The sheik and 10 other men are charged with conspiring to terrorize the U.S. government by bombing the United Nations and other New York City landmarks, assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubrak and kill or kidnap other public figures. Prosecutors claim the Feb. 26, 1993, bombing of the World Trade Center was part of the conspiracy.
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