U.S. prison authorities say an Egyptian cleric convicted of participating in a plan to blow up landmarks in New York City has died in prison.
An official at the Federal Correction Complex in Butner, North Carolina, confirmed Saturday that Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman died early Saturday after a long battle with diabetes and coronary artery disease.
Abdel-Rahman was linked to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center that killed six people but was not convicted of a crime directly related to it.
He had been incarcerated since 1995 for his advisory role in a failed plot to blow up Manhattan landmarks, including U.N. headquarters, as well as a key bridge and two heavily traveled highway tunnels leading into the city. His stated goal was to interfere with U.S. support for Israel and for Egypt.
A prison spokesman said Abdel-Rahman was 78.
His son told the Reuters news agency his family had received a call from U.S. authorities confirming the death.
Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian, was nicknamed “the blind sheikh” because he lost his eyesight during childhood because of diabetes. He read Braille and attended an Islamic boarding school as a child. He became one of Egypt’s most outspoken Muslim clerics, boldly denouncing the country’s secularism.
Abdel-Rahman eventually moved to Afghanistan and developed a strong relationship with terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.
Despite spending the past two decades in U.S. federal prison, Abdel-Rahman still had a strong following in Egypt at the time of his death.