|Rabei Osman Syed Ahmed|
Rabei Osman is escorted from court after sentencing. (June 2006)
|Born||circa 22 July 1971 (age 40)
Italian State Police
|Alleged to be a member of||Egyptian Islamic Jihad (al-Jihad)|
|Charge(s)||membership and belonging to a terrorist group organization of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and plotting a terror attack in Italy|
|Penalty||10 years imprisonment|
|Status||extradited to Spain in February 2007, remains in Spanish custody|
Rabei Osman (Arabic: ربيع عثمان سيد أحمد), is an Egyptian citizen who was arrested on July 2004 by Italian State Police on terrorism charges. He was accused of multiple counts of murder, attempted murder, stealing a vehicle, belonging to a terrorist organisation (al-Jihad) and four counts of carrying out terrorist acts of the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
He was born in Alazizya-Samnoud in Egypt on 22 July 1971. His family came from a middle-class family. Italian and Spanish arrest warrants suggest he became a member of the terrorist organization "Egyptian Islamic Jihad", one of al-Qaeda's backbone groups, which was led by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's right-hand man and mentor.
He served for 3 years in the Egyptian Army as part of the service, then served for an extra two more years. He allegedly was stationed in the explosives brigade in Port Said and considered an expert in bombs. He left the country in 1996. However, Egyptian police and Egyptian embassy officials can’t confirm the allegations Rabei was a member of the terrorist group or became an explosives expert in the army. After leaving his native Egypt, he may have traveled to several countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Jordan for terrorist training.
Rabei flew into Frankfurt, Germany on June 1999. He was arrested for not having any identification while travelling on a train from Germany to France on 20 June 1999. He doesn’t know why he was traveling to France remains unknown. When he was arrested, he introduced himself as Muhammad Abdul Hadi Fayed, and claimed to be a stateless Palestinian person who came from Libya to stay in Frankfurt, Germany. However, the authorities could not verify any of this information. Rabei applied for political asylum as a Palestinian refugee. His request was denied in July 1999 and he was sent promptly to prison. While in prison, he worked as a prison janitor. He was released in 12 September 2000 and sent to a hostel for asylum seekers in Lebach, Saarland, Germany. At the refugee center, people noticed he was very religious and spoke English well. Rabei started a prayer group and began to act as a kind of an imam.
Although he was not supposed to leave the refugee hostel in asylum Germany, In August 2001, he traveled to Spain for week or two, then returned to the center and prepared to depart. He was last seen on 29 August 2001, and was thought to have gone on his way to Spain. On 6 September 2001 before 9/11 attacks begins, Rabei visited the Egyptian embassy in Madrid and applied for a new Spanish passport, saying he lost his old one. However, in the aftermath of 9/11, German authorities began investigating thousands of Muslims to see if any are tied to the Hamburg cell. In so doing, they re-examined the case of Rabei, the "Palestinian". But again their investigations proved that it's hard.
|Osman Rabei's hearing in Madrid, Spain (Spanish)|
It is very unclear how Rabei supported himself at this time. Some reports say that he worked as a painter. Other reports claim that he received sizable amounts of money from a Saudi Sheikh named Salman al-'Auda. He went to local mosques in Madrid but was eventually asked to leave at least one of them because he was considered too radical and very annoying. According to the Spanish El País newspaper, Rabei and a Tunisian, Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, had ties with individuals belonging to al-Qaeda. Sarhane had belonged to Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas' al-Qaeda since 1996. Yarkas had been investigated by Judge Balthasar Garzon of Spain for an alleged connection with the 11 September attacks. Sarhane, one of seven who died in the Leganes blast on 3 April 2004 apparently found Rabei's explosives expertise helpful in planning and executing the Madrid terrorist attack. Rabei may also have been connected with groups associated with al-Qaeda such as Takfir wal-Hijra movement, an extremist Islamist sect. Takfir an organization was founded in Egypt in the 1970s and embraces the most violent strain of salafist jihadist ideology. Rabei left the country on 27 February 2003 and headed to France, fearful the Spanish police had discovered his whereabouts.
On 28 February 2003, Spanish authorities notified the French people that Rabei was about to move to Paris. The police located him in Vincennes where he was staying with his cousin Elsheshtawy Ahmed. He was placed under surveillance but didn't appear to have ties to any radical Islamic movements in France. The police mostly lost contacts with him at some juncture. He appeared to have been involved in forging documents for those living in the country illegally. He also worked as a construction worker and house painter in Paris. He continued to maintain contact with his friends in Spain.
Italy (January 2004 – June 2004 arrest)
Rabei arrived in Milan, Italy in January 2004, and moved in with his brother-in-law Ghazi Bidel and Bidel's cousin Wael – both of whom work in a local pizzeria in Milan. The three share an apartment in an upscale neighbourhood of via Cadore which they could afford by pooling their money. After the bomb attacks occur on 11 March 2004, the Spanish police arrested a total number of suspects. One of them had Rabei's cell phone number in his address book. The Spanish police ask the Milanese police to place Rabei on surveillance. Having their teeth investigating Mafioso, left-wing and Islamist terrorists for several years, the Milanese police are skilled at wiretapping Rabei's home, phone and computer.
Not long after he is placed under surveillance, Rabei moved to another apartment on the outskirts of Milan, probably in early April 2004. The police placed that flat under surveillance as well, wiretapping the phone, rooms and computer. By then, Rabei had recruited a young Egyptian, Yehia Ragheh, 21, to become a possible suicide bomber in Iraq. In one of their recorded conversations Rabei makes a stunning admission.
He also was in touch with a man by the name of Mourad from Belgium and someone by the name of Muhammad Ragheh in France. They discussed in oblique terms the eventuality of becoming suicide bombers.
After listening to Rabei and Yehia for two full months, the police grew worried that Rabei was planning another attack in Belgium with the help of Mourad. They decided to arrest him for good, although they would have liked to keep him under surveillance for far longer. On 7 June, he and Yahiya were arrested. The next day, Belgian federal police arrested Mourad for the same connection.
On February 2007 Rabei Osman's trial began in Madrid, along with other 28 defendants, for having a key role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. On October 2007 Rabei Osman was acquitted in Madrid from all charges with other 5 suspects.