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Also on the list is Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman, the son of the man known as the “Blind Sheik,” or Omar Abdel-Rahman, who is serving a life sentence in a federal prison for plotting bombings of New York City tunnels in the 1990s.

Also on the list are Shawky Salama Mostafa and Mohammed Hassan Mahmoud, who are connected to al Qaeda and were captured by U.S. forces in 1998 in Albania but sent to Egypt for trial. Many other members of that cell from the 1990s in Albania are at large.

Political issues

A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the sensitive diplomacy said the list Mr. Benjamin presented was narrowed down from a list generated by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC).

“We recognize there are political issues here,” this official said. “We are giving them an easy option to demonstrate their willingness to work with us.”

One problem is that Egyptian security officers still on the job are wary of cooperating with the United States after its longtime partner in counterterrorism, Mr. Mubarak, was abandoned at the height of popular unrest, according to this official.

The official said the response to U.S. appeals from Gen. Tantawi has been, “If you want this done, I can make this happen, but you cannot question my methods. And when I keep these methods in place, you can’t complain there either.”

Among the individuals who are not on the list Mr. Benjamin delivered are Abbud al-Zumur and Tariq al-Zumur. The cousins were initially arrested as key plotters of the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. In interviews with the Egyptian press, Abbud al-Zumur has said he is forming a political party. In 2007, the two men issued statements expressing regret for the Sadat assassination.

Encouragement for jihad

Ayman al-Zawahri, who was second in command to Osama bin Laden, mentioned the cousins in an April address about the Egyptian revolution.

Al-Zawahri acknowledged in that speech the release of what he called “political prisoners.”

“I ask God to benefit them so that their release is a benefit for Islam and a support for the Muslims and all the others downtrodden and oppressed people,” he said.

Al-Zawahri said that “a special congratulation goes to the noble and virtuous brothers, [Abbud al-Zumur, Tariq al-Zumur,and Muhammad al-Zawahri]. I ask God to be with them and for their release to be a beginning of a campaign … to awaken the [community of believers] and mobilize it behind the demand for Islamic Shariah so that it will be the ruling body of law and not subject to other laws.”

In an interview in Cairo, Nageh Ibrahim, a chief theologian and leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group, estimated that 50 members of his organization were released from prison since the revolution began on Jan. 25.

“It’s impossible to say how many people have been released from prison since the start of the revolution,” said Muntassir al-Zayyat, an Egyptian lawyer who has represented dozens of jihadists who were arrested in recent years on terrorism-related charges.

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