Omar Suleiman, the once-powerful head of Egypt’s intelligence service who represented the old regime’s last attempt to hold onto power, died in a Cleveland hospital early Thursday, according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency.
The state-run Middle East News Agency said Suleiman had suffered from lung and heart problems for months and that his health had deteriorated sharply during the past three weeks.
Egyptian critics immediately saw his death in the United States as emblematic of his close ties with America’s Central Intelligence Agency, which he helped to establish the practice of extraordinary rendition and, critics say, the torture of terrorism suspects.
When the C.I.A. asked Mr. Suleiman if he could provide a DNA sample from a brother of the Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mr. Suleiman offered to send the agency the brother’s entire arm instead, according to Ron Suskind, the author of “The One Percent Doctrine.”
Mr. Suleiman was the first head of the powerful intelligence service whose identity became publicly known. He played a crucial role in Egyptian diplomatic efforts to forge a reconciliation between Palestinians from Hamas and Fatah, although releases of diplomatic documents by WikiLeaks showed that he had worked with the Israelis to try to deny Hamas its electoral victory in Gaza, because he viewed the organization as an extension of Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood.
“I think a lot of secrets will die with him,” said Nabil Fahmy, the former Egyptian ambassador to the United States. “He had a unique ability of being in a very sensitive, often controversial position as head of intelligence but at the same time preserving the respect of people toward him. He was a professional.”