World Bulletin / News Desk
Egypt's former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, one of ousted president Hosni Mubarak's closest associates and briefly his deputy, died in the United States while undergoing medical tests, one of his aides said.
He was 76. An urbane, shadowy figure, Suleiman was Mubarak's go-between of choice with Israel and the United States. As one of the autocratic leader's most trusted advisers, he takes some of the fallen government's most closely guarded secrets to his grave.
"He was fine. It came suddenly while he was having medical tests in Cleveland," the aide, Hussein Kamal, told Reuters without saying what caused the death. Preparations were under way to bring his body back home for burial, Kamal said.
Suleiman stepped briefly into the limelight last year when he was made Mubarak's vice president to try to end the Arab Spring uprising against his three-decade rule.
The gamble failed when the Egyptians massed in the streets to demand Mubarak step down rejected the political concessions Suleiman offered to appease them.
Many protesters were incensed when Suleiman suggested they were not yet ready for democracy. Days later, Mubarak fell.
He returned to the public sphere in April, alarming the mostly young revolutionaries who led the January 2011 uprising by bidding for the presidency.
He was disqualified when he failed to win the required backing. The election was won by Mohamed Mursi, the candidate of Mubarak's chief Islamist adversary the Muslim Brotherhood.
Suleiman left the country after his failed presidency bid, travelling to Abu Dhabi with relatives, according to a person familiar with the matter.
A senior Egyptian intelligence official, who did not want to be named, said he spoke to Suleiman's son-in-law who told him of the death. It was confirmed by Egypt's state news agency MENA.
Suleiman headed the Egyptian General Intelligence Services (EGIS) from 1993, taking a prominent diplomatic role in Egypt's relations with Israel, Palestinian factions and aid donor and ally the United States.
He was quietly touted as a possible successor to Mubarak. although many Egyptians believed the president would serve for life or try to hand power to his son.
"He was a strong man in the Mubarak regime. Now he is in the hands of God so we cannot judge him," said Achraf Chazly, a 35-year-old lawyer.
Egypt's interim government paid tribute to Suleiman, calling him a "patriotic, honest figure" in a statement carried by state news website Al-Ahram.
Others disagreed, saying Suleiman was part of a ruling elite that imprisoned and brutally abused anyone who opposed it.
"There is sorrow for all those that hoped for his punishment on earth, to see him a convicted criminal in the prisons where he put them for so long," said Facebook user Ibrahim el-Houdaiby.