Jaafar Numeiri, 79, a former Sudanese president known for imposing Islamic law in the country, died Saturday after a long illness at a military hospital in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman, the official news agency said.
Numeiri came to power in a 1969 coup that ended five years of civilian rule marred by corruption and economic problems. He held the post of president for 16 years despite a coup attempt by the communist left in the early 1970s.
In 1972, Numeiri signed a peace accord to end a rebellion by southern Sudan that started in 1955. The agreement gave the mostly Christian and animist south a degree of autonomy from the mostly Muslim north.
But Numeiri imposed Islamic law, or Sharia, in 1983, increasing tension with the south. Shortly thereafter, he dissolved the southern Sudanese government in violation of the 1972 peace accord, reigniting the civil war with the north that finally ended in 2005.
Numeiri was a close ally of the U.S. and was the only Arab leader to support Egyptian President Anwar Sadat after he signed the Camp David peace accords with Israel in 1978.
He was overthrown in a bloodless coup in 1985 while on an official visit to the United States.
Numeiri lived in exile in Egypt from 1985 until 1999, when Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir allowed him to return.