Sheikh: Profile of a kidnapper
Omar Saeed Sheikh is a man with many names but
one purpose: waging a war of terror against Indian and American
profile on Omar Sheikh (also Sheikh
Syed, Mustafa Muhammad Ahmed, Chaudhry
Bashir Ahmed Shabir and Imtiaz Siddique) prepared by M.J.Gohel, chairman
of the Asia Pacific Foundation paints the picture of the youth from East
London who rose swiftly to terrorist heights.
Following is a profile of Sheikh's rise to terror:
1968: Sheikh's parents, Saeed Ahmed Sheikh and Qaissia, both
Pakistanis, migrate to the UK.
1973: Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh born 23 December, in Wanstead, east
London, UK. He later has a younger brother Awais Sheikh and sister Hajira
Sheikh does his schooling in the UK at Nightingale Primary School and
later at Forest School at Snaresbrook where he has a short lived romance
with an English girl known as 'Sarah'. England Cricket Captain Nasser
Hussain is a classmate at Snaresbrook.
1977: Sheikh's family purchase house in London and establish
garment business: Perfect Fashions, annual turn-over of £500,00
1991: Sheikh obtains admission to London School of Economics to
study mathematics and statistics. While at LSE, Sheikh starts a
shares and equities business, earning up to £1000 pounds ($1,500) a day
from a chain of retail customers he had set up using his father's business
base. Sheikh also shows a keen interest in chess and arm wrestling. But
then Sheikh suddenly drops out of the LSE.
1992: Sheikh, influenced by UK extremist Islamic groups and a film
on Bosnia (Destruction of a Nation) goes on a trip to Bosnia with an
organisation called Convoy of Mercy and comes into contact with jehadi
groups. Later that year Sheikh attends the World Arm Wrestling
Championship in Geneva, Switzerland.
At this time Sheikh is in contact with Maulana Ismail of Clifton Mosque in
North London, who it is believed inspired him to join Harkat ul Mujahideen
(HuM) and to go to Kashmir in India for jehad, and to secure the release
of Maulana Masood Azhar. Sheikh becomes a member of the HuM.
1993: Sheikh slips into India and organises arson and bombing
attacks in a campaign to secure the release of Maulana Masood Azhar, and
masterminds the kidnapping of four western hostages, three of whom are
British - Rhys Partridge, Paul Rideout and Christopher Myles, and an
American, Bela Nuss. He befriends them and lures them into a trap.
Indian police trace him to the hideout and in the ensuing gunfight Sheikh
is shot and captured by New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh State police.
Sheikh is taken to Ghaziabad hospital for treatment, he punches a deputy
superintendent of police, and threatens to track down and kill the
constable who had slapped him back.
Later at the Meerut jail, he kicks the jail superintendent, and is shifted
to high security Tihar jail in New Delhi, after the Uttar Pradesh State
Police categorised him as 'dreaded'.
1995: Sheikh's group, now the Harkat ul Ansar (HuA), operating
under the name Al-Faran kidnaps six western tourists in the hill resort of
Pahalgam in southern Kashmir, India. The six are John Childs, 41
(American), Donald Hutchings, 42 (American), Paul Wells, 23 (British),
Keith Mangan, 33 (British), Dirk Hasert, 36 (German), and Hans Christian
Ostro, 27 (Norwegian).
Childs manages to escape but the beheaded body of Ostro is discovered in
August with a note from the HuA demanding the release within two
days of 15 jailed Islamic terrorists, including Sheikh, and Maulana Masood
Azhar. No news has been heard to date of the other western hostages,
all believed to have been killed in December.
Later in the year Sheikh and the HuM to which HUA has reverted, become
signatories to the Bin Laden Fatwa calling for jehadis to kill Americans,
including American civilians.
1999: On 24 December Indian Airlines Airbus, Flight IC 814 en route
to Kathmandu is hijacked by five HuM terrorists, but it is suspected to be
an operation ordered by Al-Qaeda for the specific purpose of demanding the
release of Sheikh and Azhar.
Sheikh, Maulana Masood Azhar, and Mushtaq Zargar (Al Umar terrorist group)
are released. The released trio surface in Pakistan. International
security agencies request Pakistan to locate and arrest the trio. Sheikh
disappears from Pakistan and surfaces in Afghanistan with Taliban/Al-Qaeda
2001: Sheikh suspected by western intelligence of wiring $100,000 (£71,000)
from Dubai to 11 September US attack leader Mohammed Atta and
co-conspirator Marwan al Shehhi, another Saudi citizen.
US Special Forces in Afghanistan discover boarding passes for the hijacked
Indian Airlines Airbus, Flight IC-814, and other evidence of Al-Qaeda
links to HuM and JeM from the search of abandoned terrorist camps.
Media reports, quoting FBI sources, state that Lt-Gen Ahmad lost his job
because of the evidence, consisting of cell phone conversations,
indicating his links to Sheikh, and that the US authorities sought his
removal after confirming the fact that the $100,000 wired to Atta and al
Shehhi by Sheikh was at the instance of Lt-Gen Ahmad.
Aftab Ansari (aka Farhan Malik), a Pakistani citizen, and living in Dubai
telephones newspapers and claims responsibility for the attack on the US
Centre in Calcutta (Kolkata). The caller said he was from Harkat-ul
Jehad-ul Islami (HUGI) and said the attack was in protest against
"the evil empire of America".
Ansari, originally a resident of Varanasi, was taken to Pakistan last year
(2001) by Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, and put in contact
February 5 under mounting US pressure on Islamabad to find Daniel
Pearl, Sheikh's relatives in Pakistan are taken into custody and his aunt
in Pakistan speaks to him on his cell phone with a message to give himself
up: "I think your game is out and we didn't know you were indulging
in this. You better hand over yourself."
On February 9 Aftab Ansari is arrested by Dubai police and deported
On February 10 Ansari admits to his involvement in the attack on
the USIS Centre and about his links with terrorists and jehadi groups in
Pakistan, and especially with Sheikh and the HuM.
On February 12, Pakistan, announces that Sheikh has been arrested
in Lahore, Pakistan. The news of the arrest came just prior to a scheduled
meeting in Washington between US President George Bush and Pakistani
military ruler General Musharraf, on a visit to the US to seek financial
aid for his country.