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Omar Abdel-Rahman, Radical Cleric Connected To 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, Dies

Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman sits and prays inside an iron cage at the opening of a court session in Cairo in 1989.
Mike Nelson
AFP/Getty Images
Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman sits and prays inside an iron cage at the opening of a court session in Cairo in 1989.

Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the radical Muslim cleric with ties to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, died early morning Saturday at a federal prison complex in Butner, N.C.

According to Kenneth McKoy, the facility's acting executive assistant, Abdel-Rahman, 78, died after a long struggle with coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Born in Egypt, Abdel-Rahman, also known as "the blind sheikh," came to the U.S. in the early 1990s. Preaching in New York and New Jersey, he spread his radical vision of Islam, decried U.S. support for Israel and built a network of devoted followers.

While Abdel-Rahman was never convicted of playing a direct role in the February 1993 truck bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 at the World Trade Center, he had connections to those who did and had been actively plotting a wave of terrorist attacks against New York City targets.

In 1995, Abdel-Rahman and nine of his followers were convicted of conspiring to wage "a war of urban terrorism against the United States," according to the indictment, planning attacks on New York landmarks, including the George Washington Bridge, United Nations' headquarters and the Lincoln Tunnel.

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Cory Turner reports and edits for the NPR Ed team. He's helped lead several of the team's signature reporting projects, including "The Truth About America's Graduation Rate" (2015), the groundbreaking "School Money" series (2016), "Raising Kings: A Year Of Love And Struggle At Ron Brown College Prep" (2017), and the NPR Life Kit parenting podcast with Sesame Workshop (2019). His year-long investigation with NPR's Chris Arnold, "The Trouble With TEACH Grants" (2018), led the U.S. Department of Education to change the rules of a troubled federal grant program that had unfairly hurt thousands of teachers.
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