x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Egypt's former vice president and spy chief Omar Suleiman dies

Egypt's former vice president Omar Suleiman, long-time spy chief to deposed president Hosni Mubarak has died in the United States aged 77.

CAIRO // Egypt's former vice president Omar Suleiman, long-time spy chief to deposed president Hosni Mubarak, died today in the United States aged 77, the official Mena news agency reported.

"Former vice president General Omar Suleiman died in the early hours of Thursday in a hospital in the United States," the agency said.

"He was undergoing medical tests in Cleveland," Suleiman's aide Hussein Kamal said, adding that arrangements were being made for the return of his body to Egypt for burial.

Mr Suleiman had suffered from lung disease for several months, after which he developed heart problems, Mena said.

"His health deteriorated suddenly around three weeks ago and he was taken to hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, where he died," Mena said.

Mr Suleiman was appointed vice president during the uprising that toppled Mubarak.

He left Egypt after a failed bid to run in the country's first ever free presidential elections in May.

After initially travelling to Dubai, he later headed to Germany and then on to the United States for treatment, General Saad Al Abbassi, a member of Mr Suleiman's presidential campaign team, said.

"His health deteriorated recently. He was in the United States with his family," said Reem Mamdouh, another member of the team.

Mr Suleiman, a pillar of the ousted regime, announced in April that he would be running for the president after initially saying he would stay out of the race.

He was barred from pursuing the country's top job on a technicality, after the election commission said he failed to get endorsements from 15 provinces as per the law.

Mr Suleiman was widely believed to have formed part of the inner circle of Mubarak, who shortly before his fall named the intelligence supremo as vice president.

Born on July 2, 1935 to a well-off family in the southern town of Qena, Mr Suleiman graduated from Cairo's military academy in 1955.

Mr Suleiman who received military training in the former Soviet Union, was for years a highly enigmatic figure for the world at large and in Egypt, where the all-powerful military's activities are shrouded in secrecy.

But he increasingly acquired a public face in recent years, being tipped even before the uprising as a potential successor to Mr Mubarak, himself a former head of the air force.

Under Mr Mubarak, Mr Suleiman served as a negotiating partner for the United States, Israel and the Palestinians, orchestrating a series of short-lived truces.

In 1995, Mr Suleiman advised Mr Mubarak to ride in an armoured car during a visit to Addis Ababa that shielded him from the fire of Islamist gunmen which killed the car's driver.

During the 1990s and following the botched Ethiopian assassination attempt, Mr Suleiman joined the efforts of the CIA and other foreign intelligence agencies to crack down on Islamists, at home and abroad.