Born in 1976, Omar Khan Sharif was a Palestinian terrorist who resided in London, England, where he supported the radical Islamist organization Al-Muhajiroun. He also had links to North London’s Finsbury Park mosque, which, under the stewardship of Imam Abu Hamza al-Masri in the late 1990s and early 2000s, became notorious as a haven for Islamic extremists including Al-Qaeda operatives like Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui.
In April 2003, Sharif and a 21-year-old accomplice, West London resident Asif Hanif, posed as “alternative tourists” and passed over the Allenby Bridge border crossing from Jordan into Israel. From there, the two men went to Gaza, where they met with Hamas militants and also shared conversation and tea with members of the International Solidarity Movement. On April 30, Sharif and Hanif strapped concealed explosives to their bodies and crossed back into Israel, where they headed for their target destination, Mike’s Place, a Tel Aviv waterfront bar close to the U.S. embassy and popular with foreigners and English-speaking Israelis. Once arrived, Hanif detonated his bomb in the midst of the patrons, killing himself as well as two musicians and a waitress and wounding dozens more. Sharif’s bomb, however, failed to detonate, and he was physically attacked by a number of the terrified, angry people at the scene. Sharif eventually managed to break free and run off into the night, but not before he had dropped his passport in the mayhem.
Twelve days later, Sharif’s corpse was spotted in the sea not far from the beach adjacent to Mike’s Place. Speculation swirled as to how he had died. According to a Guardian news story: “One theory has Sharif running into the sea to escape after the failed bombing only to be swept away by the area’s notoriously strong currents. Another has him drowned by his accomplices to prevent his arrest and exposure under interrogation of the network that brought him from London, and his contacts in the Palestinian territories. Or perhaps Sharif could not face the shame of failing in his mission and decided to commit suicide another way.”
Al-Muhajiroun leader Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed lauded Sharif as a role model for other would-be British s “martyrs.” “The fact that he [Sharif] took this step towards paradise makes him an example for many Muslims, to consider how somebody could think seriously about life and the meaning of life, and sacrifice his life for the sake of God.” Al-Muhajiroun spokesman Omar Abdullah said: “People are unsure how he [Sharif] could have ended up drowned, and many have speculated whether he may have been captured, tortured or even killed by the Israeli security services. To die through drowning is still an act of martyrdom, we believe.”
Further Reading: “Mystery of the Last Hours of Failed Suicide Bomber Found Dead in Sea” (The Guardian, 5-20-2003).