CAIRO: Egypt’s former spy chief Omar Suleiman, one of the top figures in the regime ousted by last year’s uprising, has died. He was 76. The official Middle East News Agency said in a brief report that Suleiman died in a US hospital early Thursday.
Suleiman was appointed vice president on Jan. 29, 2011, at the peak of the uprising, a desperate attempt by Mubarak to save his political life as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets demanding his ouster.
After the revolution, Suleiman disappeared from public only to come back as a presidential candidate, sparking fears of a Mubarak regime comeback. However, shortly after registering as a candidate, the country’s election commission in a surprising move disqualified him for not having received enough signatures on his candidacy papers.
In his most recent public comments, Suleiman said he decided to run for president to prevent Islamists from turning Egypt into a “religious state,” and warned that the country would be internationally isolated if one of them became president.
Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist from the Muslim Brotherhood group, won the presidency last month. Suleiman was born in Qena in southern Egypt and graduated from the country’s military academy as an infantry officer in 1955. He rose through the infantry ranks and was appointed deputy head of military intelligence in 1987. He became military intelligence chief in 1991 during the Gulf War, when Egypt was among the Arab forces that helped a U.S.-led coalition drive Saddam Hussein’s military out of Kuwait.
Suleiman served as intelligence chief for nearly two decades. For most of that time he played a behind-the-scenes role as the top official in charge of some of the most important issues facing the Egyptian state. He was often tipped as a successor to Mubarak.