After Tuesday’s carnage in lower Manhattan allegedly at the hands of a Diversity Visa Lottery program winner, the program is under intense scrutiny. President Trump said he’d like to do away with the program. But 20 years ago, another Diversity Visa winner likely saved hundreds of lives in New York City by foiling an attack on the city’s subway system.
On July 30, 1997, two suicide bombers killed 16 people at a Jerusalem market. Abdel Rahman Mosabbah, an Egyptian university graduate and Diversity Visa winner living in a Park Slope apartment with other Arab immigrants, stopped a similar attack in a Brooklyn transit hub.
One of Mosabbah’s roommates, a Palestinian named Gazi Abu Mezer, showed him a pair of pipe bombs he’d made.
“Did you see what happened in Jerusalem?” Abu Mezer asked Mosabbah, according to the Daily Beast. “Well, tomorrow it will happen here.”
Abu Mezer told Mosabbah that he and another Palestinian roommate, Lafi Khalil, planned a suicide bombing at the Atlantic Avenue station with the intention of killing Orthodox and Hasidic Jews using the hub to commute to work in the Midtown Diamond District.
The attack would be emulated after a Hamas technique: the first bomb would create havoc and the second the slaughter.
Only in America for a few weeks, the horrified Mosabbah left the apartment, unsure of whom to tell.
About 11 a.m., Mosabbah approached two Long Island Rail Road officers outside the targeted station and tried to explain his roommates’ plot.
“Bomba” Mosabbah repeated to the officers trying to make himself understood. He made explosion noises. The Egyptian was taken to the 88th precinct and waited hours for an FBI translator.
The Emergency Service Unit raided the Park Slope apartment just before 5 a.m. on the morning of the planned terrorist attack.
Police found the bombs inside the apartment, dispelling any doubts about Mosabbah’s story.
“The information received, some people attribute to good luck and good fortune,” Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said later. “Some people attribute it to an act of God, or maybe to an act of a conscience that ultimately unites all men and women when they realized that beyond racial, religious, ethnic, and even political differences, we are all united as people and human beings and that we have to protect each other and help each other.”
Terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov, charged with mowing into pedestrians with a rented truck killing eight, entered the United States in 2010 after winning a Diversity Visa.
Diversity Visas are given to citizens from countries that do not have a large immigrant population in the United States.