“You know what ‘Baraka’ means in Arabic? Blessing,” says veteran Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi, who is linked to al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1990s. Turabi told AFP news agency that he hopes U.S. President Barack Obama will win a second term on Tuesday. “Obama of course,” Turabi said when asked about his U.S. presidential preference during an interview. “He’s gentle towards the Muslims generally,” Turabi said, and referred to Obama’s childhood spent in Muslim-majority Indonesia, and his Kenyan father who was raised a Muslim. Obama uses the word “terrorism” far less than his predecessor George W. Bush, and his name is a variant of the Arabic word “Baraka,” Turabi said.
Obama, a Christian, was elected the first African American U.S. president in 2008 and is in a tight race against Republican rival Mitt Romney. Turabi has been a force in Sudanese politics for six decades, and was a key figure behind the 1989 coup which brought the Islamist regime of President Omar al-Bashir to power. Sudan then became a notorious refuge for militant Islamists, including bin Laden, leading to American sanctions which Obama renewed last week. Bin Laden, based in Sudan from 1991 to 1996, was killed in Pakistan by U.S. special forces last year. “He’s a media image. He’s not the true bin Laden I knew here,” Turabi says of the man whose organisation has been tied to dozens of atrocities around the world including the September 11, 2001 attacks which killed around 3,000 people in the U.S. Turabi, whose daughter studies in Philadelphia, fell out with Bashir about a decade after the Islamist coup and now leads the opposition Popular Congress Party. In and out of prison numerous times during his career, Turabi said he read Obama’s books behind bars.
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