Omar Suleiman, the veteran spy chief who deposed former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and served as the country’s vice president, died of a heart attack Thursday in the United States.
The 77-year-old Suleiman was undergoing medical tests in Cleveland when he suffered the heart attack, AFP reported. Arrangements are already being made for the return of his body to Egypt for burial.
Suleiman was suffering from lung disease for several months which also led to heart problems, the report said.
“His health deteriorated suddenly around three weeks ago and he was taken to hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, where he died,” the state-owned Middle East News Agency announced.
Suleiman was a key figure during Mubarak’s transition out of power, serving as vice president and leading negotiation efforts with protesters. After a failed bid at the country’s first free election in May of this year Omar Suleiman left the country.
His nomination infuriated the Muslim Brotherhood, AFP reported, leading the Islamist-dominated parliament to pass a law excluding him and other former regime leaders from standing in election. Suleiman was disqualified from the election over faulty paperwork. Regardless of the bad blood, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, winner of the election, sent condolences to Suleiman’s family and said he would receive a military funeral.
As his health worsened, Omar Suleiman had traveled to Dubai for treatment, then to Germany and ultimately the United States.
“His health deteriorated recently. He was in the United States with his family,” said Reem Mamdouh, another member of the team.
Critics noted that Omar Suleiman’s death in the United States was fitting because of the close ties he had with the CIA during his tenure. He helped establish the practice of extraordinary rendition, which critics claimed led to the torture of terrorism suspects, The New York Times reported.
When Mubarak was opposed in months of street protests calling for his resignation, he turned to Suleiman to negotiate with critics and later appointed him head of a last-ditch effort to reorganize the government, The New York Times reported.
It was Omar Suleiman himself who announced just 13 days later that Mubarak would be stepping down and turning interim power over to the military.