Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheik convicted of plotting terror attacks in the United States in the 1990s, died Saturday in a federal prison where he was serving a life sentence.
He was 78.
Abdel-Rahman died at 5:40 a.m. after suffering from diabetes and coronary artery disease, said Kenneth McKoy at the Federal Correction Complex in Butner, North Carolina.
He had been at the complex for seven years.
His daughter, Asmaa, announced the death in a series of Arabic-language tweets: “We are saddened by your departure, father,” she wrote.
Blind since infancy from diabetes, the cleric 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.
The Islamic group was believed to have been behind other terror attacks such as the 1997 massacre that killed 62 people in Luxor, Egypt.
Abdel-Rahman was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, and later plotted to blow up the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels in addition to other city landmarks.
He was one of six suspects convicted in the attack that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 others.
Former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi voiced support for Abdel-Rahman’s release in 2012, inciting backlash from New York political leaders such as Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Congressman Peter King.
The Obama administation denied the then-73-year-old sheik’s release, despite pressure from international government officials. Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said his release would be “a gross betrayal of public trust.”
An FBI informant warned the U.S. not to release the ailing sheik because he still posed a threat to national security, Emad Salem told the I-Team in an exclusive 2013 interview.
The one-time Egyptian military officer became Abdel-Rahman’s bodyguard and personal assistant, which allowed him to record him ordering the killing of Americans during his time in Jersey City and Brooklyn.
A son of the sheik, Saif, was killed in a drone strike while on the frontlines of Afghanistan in 2011.