tp-richard-holbrooke-rtxtw5

U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, shown in Kabul on Oct. 27, died Monday at age 69 after being hospitalized for a torn aorta. ((Omar Sobhani/Reuters))

Veteran U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who was hospitalized for a torn aorta, has died in Washington, D.C.

Holbrooke, who was President Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was 69.

He became ill and collapsed during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about mid-morning Friday, and was rushed to George Washington University Hospital. While doctors were said to have stabilized his condition during surgery on Saturday and another one on Sunday, he remained in critical condition and died on Monday.

A torn aorta is a rip in the inner wall of the body's largest artery, which allows blood to enter the vessel wall and weaken it. The result is serious internal bleeding, a loss of normal blood flow and possible complications in organs affected by the resulting lack of blood, according to medical experts. Without surgery it generally leads to rapid death.

On Monday evening, Clinton said Holbrooke was one of America's "fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants."

"Richard Holbrooke served the country he loved for nearly half a century, representing the United States in far-flung war zones and high-level peace talks, always with distinctive brilliance and unmatched determination," Clinton said in a statement Monday evening. "He was one of a kind — a true statesman — and that makes his passing all the more painful."

Holbrooke, who brokered the 1995 accord ending the war in the Balkans, also served as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and to Germany and twice was assistant secretary of state.

His forceful style earned him nicknames such as "The Bulldozer" and "Raging Bull."

Holbrooke is survived by his wife, Kati Marton, and two sons from an earlier marriage.

With files from The Associated Press