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Worsening health of terror cleric could spark attacks, FBI warns

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Terrorist cleric Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called Blind Sheik, may be nearing death _ leading to fears that his demise could trigger an attack on the United States, officials said Thursday.

There is no credible indication that an attack on the U.S. is imminent, said several law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.

In a two-page bulletin, dated Dec. 8, the FBI reported to federal intelligence officials that Rahman was rushed from prison to a Missouri hospital two days earlier for a blood transfusion. There, doctors discovered a tumor on Rahman's liver, according to the bulletin, which was described to The Associated Press by a law enforcement official.

Officials said the bulletin served merely as a reminder that Rahman had called for retaliation by terror sympathizers if he died in prison. It cited a May 1998 press conference where al-Qaida members distributed his last will and testament, in which Rahman pleaded for followers to "extract the most violent revenge" should he die in U.S. custody.

The FBI did not have immediate comment on Thursday.

Rahman was sentenced to life in prison after his 1995 conviction for his advisory role in a plot to blow up New York City landmarks, including the United Nations.

His health has deteriorated in recent years, and he was transferred in September 2003 from the federal Supermax prison in Colorado, where the country's most notorious inmates are held, to the U.S. Medical Center for Prisons in Springfield, Mo. Prisons officials have said Rahman has suffered from diabetes, which has threatened the loss of his limbs.
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