WASHINGTON, D.C.: Blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian-born cleric linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, died Saturday of natural causes in a US prison facility, the Justice Department said. He was 78 years old.
Abdel Rahman was serving a life sentence on several terrorism-related charges at a Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina. His death came after a long battle with diabetes and coronary artery disease, the Bureau of Prisons said.
The sheikh was seen as a jihadist spiritual leader even after his conviction in 1995 for conspiring to bomb New York landmarks, including the United Nations, and assassinate the former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Abdel Rahman, who sported a long, gray beard and signature sunglasses, led the militant Gamaa Islamiya group in Egypt before emigrating to the United States.
He preached a radical brand of Islam and was seen as having inspired the 1993 bombing of New York’s World Trade Center, which left six people dead and wounded around 1,000.
His son Mohamed Omar was informed of the death and told AFP the family had contacted the US and Egyptian authorities to repatriate the late cleric’s body.
Abdel Rahman had been imprisoned in North Carolina since 2007. He was hospitalized in late 2006 in the state of Missouri after he began to spit blood and was given a blood transfusion.