Richard Holbrooke, the US special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan and a key figure in the 1995 peace agreement that ended three years of war in Bosnia, died Monday from a heart ailment, media reported.

Holbrooke, 69, died after undergoing surgery for a torn aorta at a Washington hospital. He fell ill on Friday while working at the State Department on the building's seventh floor where US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has her office.

His death comes at a critical time for US policy, with the US administration due to conduct a review of its troop surge in Afghanistan and campaign against the Taliban on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border.

A hard-nosed trouble shooter, Holbrooke is perhaps best known for brokering the 1995 peace agreement that ended three years of war in Bosnia.

As a special US envoy in the current Afghan conflict, he has had the daunting task of pushing Kabul and Islamabad to work together against resurgent Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Obama called him "a towering figure in American foreign policy, a critical member of my Afghanistan and Pakistan team, and a tireless public servant who has won the admiration of the American people and people around the world."

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