Omar Abdel Rahman dies in US prison

2017-02-18 20:22
Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind spiritual leader of Egypt's largest Islamic extremist fundamentalist group Jamaa Islamiyya. (Mike Nelson, AFP)

Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind spiritual leader of Egypt's largest Islamic extremist fundamentalist group Jamaa Islamiyya. (Mike Nelson, AFP)

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Washington -Blind sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the Egyptian-born cleric linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, died on 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 grey beard and signature sunglasses, led the militant Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya group in Egypt before emigrating to the United States.

Born in 1938, 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 injured around 1,000 more.

His son Mohamed Omar was informed of the death and told AFP the family had contacted the American and Egyptian authorities to repatriate the late cleric's body.

Abdel Rahman had been imprisoned in North Carolina since 2007. He was hospitalised in late 2006 in the state of Missouri after he began to spit blood and was given a blood transfusion.

In 2012, Egyptian Islamist President Mohamed Morsi called for Abdel Rahman's transfer to Egypt for "humanitarian reasons," asking for a "prisoner exchange" with the United States.

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