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Omar Abdel-Rahman
Omar Abdel-Rahman

NEW YORK: Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Muslim cleric known as “the blind sheikh” convicted in a New York court of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing has died, a press statement said. He was 78.

He was charged with planning of more attacks as part of a “war of urban terrorism” in the United States. He spent most of life in a North Carolina prison.

Ammar, Omar’s son, said his family had received a phone call from a US representative, saying his father had died.

The charismatic Abdel-Rahman was the face of radical Islam in the 1980s and 1990s. He preached a fiery brand of Islam that called for the death of people and governments he disapproved of and the installation of an Islamic government in Egypt.

His following was tied to fundamentalist killings and bomb attacks around the world.

Abdel-Rahman, who was born in a village along the Nile on May 3, 1938, lost his eyesight due to childhood diabetes and grew up studying a Braille version of the Quran.

Agencies add: Abdel Rahman, who led the militant Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya group in Egypt before immigrating to the United States, had been sentenced in 1996 for conspiring to bomb civilian targets in the country.

Seen as a jihadist spiritual leader, he had also been seen as inspiring the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centre that killed six people.

“We have contacted the American and Egyptian authorities to repatriate” his body, his son Mohamed Omar said.

Abdel Rahman had become a cause celebre for jihadists and Islamists who demanded the blind and ailing militant’s freedom.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2017