July 19, 2012
By Vivian Salama
In less than a day, two of the Arab world’s most renowned spooks are dead.
Hours after the assassination of Syria’s former intelligence chief Assef Shawkat in a suicide bombing, the longtime head of the Egyptian mukhabarrat(intelligence) Omar Suleiman has died, sparking finger-pointing and conspiracy theories on the streets and tweets over who to blame.
Suleiman, 76, who briefly served as the first and last vice president under Hosni Mubarak during last year’s revolution, suffered from cardiac problems triggered by lung disease, state-run Middle East News Agency reported. His health took a turn for the worse about three weeks ago when he traveled to a Cleveland hospital for treatment, MENA reported. An aid told Reuters that he “was fine” shortly before his death.
“Hell is having a mukhabarrat party,” read one Tweet shortly after the news went viral.
During the 2011 uprisings that sought to topple Mubarak, Suleiman became an internationally recognized figure as the newly-named vice president with decades of hands-on experience on national security issues. However, long before the revolution, he was a household name across the Middle East for his role as head of Egypt’s infamous intelligence apparatus. Born in the Upper Egypt town of Qena, Suleiman enlisted in the army in 1954, and later received training at the Soviet Union’s Frunze Military Academy. He served in the military during Egypt’s 1962 involvement in the North Yemen war, as well as in the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars. In 1986, he was named the deputy head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Service and climbed through the ranks, reaching the top spot in 1993. (click here to read more…)