19 July 2012

Egypt: Former Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman Dies at 76

Photo: Cherie A. Thurlby/U.S. Dept. Defense
Former spy chief, Omar Suleiman (file photo).

Egypt's former head of intelligence Omar Suleiman died in the United States today. According to Suleiman's aide the former spy chief died while undergoing medical examinations in Washington on Thursday.

Suleiman served as toppled President Hosni Mubarak's vice-president during the 2011 uprising that ousted the 30-year regime. His appointment was widely rejected and ended upon Mubarak's ouster on February 11, 2011.

Suleiman attempted to run for president but was eliminated for failing to meet the requirements. Some candidates including Hamdeen Sabahi, Khaled Ali and Khairat Al-Shater slammed Suleiman's bid for presidency. Shater described the nomination as an insult to Egypt's revolution.

Some Egyptians supported Suleiman's nomination in hopes for a more stable political scene.

Born in July 2, 1936, Suleiman was head of intelligence from 1993 until Mubarak appointed him vice-president in 2011 during the days of rage that ousted the regime. When vice-president, Suleiman led the negotiations with political forces until finally announcing Mubarak's decision to step down.

Suleiman is a symbol of the autocratic Mubarak regime that poses a threat to both Islamists, who were suppressed and routinely detained under Mubarak, and liberals who led the uprising against Mubarak.

During his post as vice-president, Suleiman faced a failed assassination attempt that resulted in the death of two of his personal guards and his personal driver.

The ex-spy chief was responsible for the Palestinian file and worked as a mediator on the case of freeing Israeli soldier Golad Shalit from Hamas's grip. He also worked on reconciliation between Hamas and Israel and the Palestinian authorities and Israelis. He also led some diplomatic missions in different countries including Sudan.

For years, local newspapers had speculated that Mubarak would appoint Suleiman as his first vice-president since assuming power in 1981. Many thought he would rule Egypt after Mubarak while others feared Mubarak would pass on power to his businessman son.

Suleiman studied at Cairo's military academy and in 1954 joined Egypt's armed forces. He acquired military training at the Academy of Frunze of the Soviet Union.

Suleiman held a BA in political science, a masters degree in political science and another in military sciences.

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