KHARTOUM, Sudan — A former Sudanese president known for imposing Islamic law in the country died Saturday at the age of 79, the official news agency said.
Gaafar Numeiri became Sudan's president in 1969 and held the post for 16 years despite a coup attempt by the communists in the early 1970s.
Numeiri is known also for signing a peace accord in 1972 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 the country 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 to the United States and was the only Arab leader to support Egyptian President Anwar Sadat after he signed the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978 that led to peace between the two countries.
Numeiri 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.
Al-Bashir, who is Muslim, praised Numeiri in a statement Saturday as a "patriotic leader" whose establishment of Islamic law set "the basis for the rule of justice."
The state news agency did not give a cause for Numeiri's death and said he is survived by his wife.