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Terrorist Nicknamed 'Blind Sheik' Dies in US Prison

FILE - Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, an Egyptian cleric convicted of participating in a plan to blow up landmarks in New York City, has died in prison. Photo from November 1993.

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.