Blind cleric in 1993 World Trade Center bombing dies

The convict was 78

BUTNER, N.C. (AP) — Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheik convicted of plotting terror attacks in the United States in the 1990s, has died. He was 78.

Kenneth McKoy of the Federal Correction Complex in Butner, North Carolina, said Rahman died at 5:40 a.m. after suffering from diabetes and coronary artery disease. Abdul-Rahman had been at the complex for seven years.

Rahman was a key spiritual leader for a generation of Islamic militants and became a symbol for radicals during a decade in American prisons.

Abdel-Rahman, blind since infancy from diabetes, was the leader of one of Egypt’s most feared militant groups, the Gamaa Islamiya, which led a campaign of violence aimed at bringing down ex-President Hosni Mubarak.

Abdel-Rahman fled Egypt to the U.S. in 1990 and began teaching in a New Jersey mosque. A circle of his followers were convicted in the Feb. 26, 1993 truck bombing of New York’s World Trade Center that killed six people — eight years before al-Qaida’s suicide plane hijackers brought the towers down.

Later in 1993, Abdel-Rahman was arrested for conspiracy to carry out a string of bombings against the United Nations, the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, the George Washington Bridge and other New York landmarks.