NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) _ Nicos Sampson, a former Greek Cypriot militiaman who served as president of Cyprus for eight days after a 1974 coup, has died at age 66.

Sampson died overnight of cancer in a clinic in Nicosia, his wife Vera said Thursday.

Once known as the ``executioner of Murder Mile'' _ the name British troops gave to the Nicosia street where more than a dozen Britons were shot and killed _ Sampson was twice sentenced to be executed on weapons charges. He was included in an amnesty proclaimed with the 1959 agreement granting Cyprus independence from colonial rule.

Sampson was a key member of the underground Eoka movement that fought for unity with Greece during the 1955-59 struggle against British colonialists. During ethnic clashes that erupted in 1964, he led a militia that battled Turkish Cypriots.

Following an Athens-backed 1974 coup by advocates of uniting Cyprus with Greece, Sampson was picked by the Greek military junta to act as president of the Mediterranean island. He was forced to resign eight days later when Turkey invaded Cyprus.

The 1974 Turkish invasion split the island into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north. A Turkish Cypriot state declared in the north is recognized only by Ankara.

Sampson was tried and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for his role in the coup. He maintained he was not involved in the coup and only agreed to accept the presidency offered to him by the Greek junta.

Soon after independence and his release from prison, Sampson launched a daily newspaper, Machi. In 1970 he was elected to parliament.

Sampson is survived by his wife and two children.