Terror suspect Abdel-Rahman dies in prison

Omar Abdel-Rahman, the extremist Muslim cleric convicted of conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing has died in a US prison.

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His son Ammar said his family had received a phone call from a US representative saying his father had died. He was 78.

The Egyptian-born 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 his following was tied to fundamentalist killings and bomb attacks around the world.

He managed to get to New York after the US Embassy in Sudan granted him a tourist visa in 1990 – despite the fact that he was on the State Department’s list of people with ties to terror groups.

While in the United States Abdel-Rahman and his disciples would be linked to the 1990 slaying in New York of militant Rabbi Meir Kahane, the 1992 killing of an anti-fundamentalist writer in Egypt and attacks on foreign tourists in Egypt.

US authorities took action in 1992 by revoking Abdel-Rahman’s green card on the grounds that he had lied about a bad check charge in Egypt and about having two wives when he entered the country.

He was facing the possibility of deportation when a truck bomb went off in the basement parking garage of the World Trade Centre on February 26, 1993, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000.

Four months later Abdel-Rahman was arrested and went on trial, accused of plotting a day of terror for the United States.

The defendants were not directly charged with the 1993 World Trade Centre attack but were convicted of conspiring with those who did carry out the bombing.

Abdel-Rahman’s convictions also included plotting to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a visit to the United States in 1993, a Jewish New York state legislator and a Jewish New York State Supreme Court justice.

Much of the case against Abdel-Rahman and his followers was based on video and audio recordings made with the help of a bodyguard for the sheikh who became an FBI informant. A video also showed four defendants mixing fertiliser and diesel fuel for bombs.

After a nine-month trial, the sheikh and nine followers were found guilty in October 1995 on 48 of 50 charges.

The news of his death was later confirmed by a United States federal prison official.