Egypt's ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman dies in United States

A picture taken on April 7, 2012 shows former Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman arriving at the presidential election committee building in Cairo Omar Suleiman was one of ex-President Mubarak's most trusted allies

Omar Suleiman, who for years headed Egyptian intelligence under ousted President Hosni Mubarak, has died in the USA.

He died in hospital in the early hours of Thursday, the official news agency Mena reported.

Gen Suleiman, who was in his seventies, was appointed vice-president by Mubarak in the last days of his rule.

He made a bid to stand for president in this year's election but was disqualified for technical reasons.

Correspondents say he was seen as an enigmatic figure both inside and outside Egypt, and played a behind-the-scenes role in issues such as relations with the US and Israel.

'Unexpected'

Analysis

For many years, Omar Suleiman was the key man behind the scenes of Hosni Mubarak's presidency.

As domestic intelligence chief, he helped enforce what amounted to a police state. He was also trusted by the president with vital missions, negotiating with the Israelis, Palestinians and Americans.

Only in the last days of Hosni Mubarak's presidency did Mr Suleiman emerge from the shadows, when he was appointed vice-president. It was his lugubrious voice that announced the political demise of his master on 11 February 2011. It is rumoured the military vetoed him as a successor.

Again this year, his bid to run for president was ruled out, when his nomination papers failed to be correctly endorsed, falling short by a handful of signatures.

If he had become a candidate, it is very likely he would have won. And if Omar Suleiman had become president, Egypt would already be a very different place.

In a statement, Egypt's interim government paid tribute to Suleiman, calling him a "patriotic, honest figure".

An assistant to Gen Suleiman said his death was unexpected.

"He was fine. It came suddenly while he was having medical tests in Cleveland," Hussein Kamal told Reuters news agency, adding that preparations were under way to take the body home for burial.

Reem Mamdouh, a member of Suleiman's presidential campaign team, told AFP that the general's health had been declining.

"His health deteriorated recently. He was in the United States with his family," he said.

State news agency Mena quoted a diplomat as saying he had been suffering from lung disease and had also developed heart problems.

Gen Suleiman headed the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (Egis) for 18 years.

He became the country's first vice-president in 30 years on 29 January 2011, four days after the popular uprising against Mubarak began.

Two weeks later, he appeared on state television to announce the long-time president had stepped down, prompting celebrations in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the focus of Egypt's protest movement.

Troubleshooter

A career in the miltary

  • Born 1935 in Qena
  • Joined army in 1954
  • Fought in 1962 Yemen conflict and Arab-Israeli wars of 1967 and 1973
  • Named director of the General Intelligence Department in 1993
  • Appointed vice-president 29 January 2011
  • Disqualified as presidential candidate in April 2012

After failing to win enough signatures to stand in Egypt's first post-Mubarak presidential vote earlier this year, he left the country, reportedly going to Abu Dhabi, then to Germany, then finally to the US for treatment.

The BBC's Jon Leyne in Cairo says Omar Suleiman was a key figure behind the presidency of Hosni Mubarak.

As spy chief, Gen Suleiman helped enforce the police state that kept Mubarak in power, he says.

He is believed to have indirectly saved Mubarak's life, advising him to take an armoured car on a state visit to Ethiopia in 1995 - his convoy was ambushed by Islamists.

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