UPDATE 5:00pm: The body of a blind Egyptian cleric who was convicted of plotting a series of terrorist attacks in New York in the 1990s has been returned to his family in Egypt for burial. Dozens of his followers, along with several family members, waited at the Cairo airport to receive the body and transport it to his hometown in Dakahliya province.
Cairo airport official Medhat Kandil confirmed to the Associated Press that the body has been handed over to the family.
The Egyptian-born blind cleric who was serving a life sentence for plotting a series of terrorist attacks in New York died Saturday at the age of 78, according to Greg North of the Federal Bureau of Prisons.
Omar Abdel Rahman died in at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, from natural causes after battling diabetes and coronary heart disease, Norton added.
Known as the "Blind Sheik," Rahman was convicted along with nine other defendants in October 1995 on sedition charges in the Federal District Court in Manhattan. Following the February 1993 World Trade Center bombing that left six dead and thousands injured, the FBI linked Rahman to plans that were intended to target New York landmarks, including the United Nations, the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, and the federal plaza that houses the FBI's Manhattan headquarters.
Those attacks never happened because, in June 1994, law enforcement officials stormed a warehouse in Queens where several of Rahman's affiliates were assembling the bombs.
Rahman, who lost his eyesight as a child from diabetes complications, was ultimately found guilty of conspiring to wage "a war of urban terrorism" as part of a conspiracy to change US policy towards Israel and Egypt. He was never charged with carrying out the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center despite prosecutors' claims that the bombing was part of the larger conspiracy.
WATCH | Achieved footage from Omar Abdel Rahman's trial
Judge Michael B. Mukasey said in court, "You were convicted of directing others to perform acts which, if accomplished, would have resulted in the murder of hundreds if not thousands of people."
Rahman didn't testify at his trial, but delivered a 90-minute passionate speech through a translator. He claimed his innocence and denounced the United States as an "enemy of Islam."
"It is not only an attack on Muslims alone, but it is an attack on the words of God," he said. "I have not committed any crime except telling people about Islam."
He has been confined with the Bureau of Prisons since 1993, and most recently, at the Federal Medical Center since February 2007.
The Department of Justice has been reached for comment.
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