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Former Egyptian spy chief Suleiman laid to rest in Cairo

By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, for CNN
July 23, 2012 -- Updated 1451 GMT (2251 HKT)
Ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman died Thursday of complications from amyloidosis in the United States.
Ex-spy chief Omar Suleiman died Thursday of complications from amyloidosis in the United States.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Omar Suleiman received a military funeral in Cairo on Saturday
  • The body of Suleiman, who died Thursday, arrived early Saturday from the U.S.
  • A horse-drawn carriage, accompanied by military police, bears him to cemetery
  • Military, political and Islamic officials attend, but newly elected president is absent

Cairo (CNN) -- The funeral for Omar Suleiman, Egypt's former spy chief, took place amid tight security Saturday, attended by several thousand mourners, politicians, religious scholars and military leaders.

Suleiman succumbed Thursday to complications from amyloidosis, a disease that affects multiple organs, including the heart and kidneys, according to the Cleveland Clinic in the United States, where the 76-year-old died.

Suleiman's body, flown by private jet from the United States, arrived at the VIP terminal in the Cairo Airport at dawn Saturday. Several dozen supporters wearing black T-shirts waited outside the terminal carrying the Egyptian flag. They chanted slogans denouncing Israel and the United States.

The ceremony coincided with the second day of Ramadan. The military funeral began with prayers at the Al Rashadan mosque in Nasr City in eastern Cairo.

Suleiman's coffin, wrapped in the Egyptian flag, was borne on a horse-drawn carriage through the streets, accompanied by a marching band to the Madinet Nasr Cemetery.

Military police wearing red berets carried his coffin past screaming mourners carrying posters of Suleiman and chanting denouncements of the newly elected president, Mohamed Morsy, and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Morsy spent six months behind bars during Suleiman's tenure as head of intelligence.

Morsy delegated his grand chamberlain and Brig. Gen. Abdul-Monem Foda as his representatives.

Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa and a delegation from Al-Azhar, Egypt's highest Islamic institution, also were present, as were Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), and his chief of staff, Sami Anan.

Suleiman was briefly appointed vice president under President Hosni Mubarak during the uprising that toppled the longtime Egyptian leader last year. It was Suleiman who, in February 2011, announced Mubarak's resignation and declared that SCAF would run the country's affairs.

Suleiman's death came as a surprise to Egyptians. He had entered the race for Egypt's first democratically elected president in the eleventh hour, but failed to gather enough signatures to be on the ballot.

He was disqualified by a panel that included members connected with the Mubarak regime, suggesting the move was not politically motivated.

Suleiman had headed Egypt's intelligence since 1993, maintained close ties with the CIA, and was often criticized by human rights groups for his heavy-handed approach with suspected militants.

Born into poverty in the town of Qena, he enrolled in Egypt's prestigious military academy and was decorated for his performance in the wars against Israel in 1967 and 1973.

In June 1995, both Suleiman and Mubarak survived an assassination attempt during an African summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Suleiman was credited for saving Mubarak's life that day.

A divisive figure in Mubarak's regime, during the revolution Suleiman led negotiations with various pro-change groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. His stance was mainly to end the "Million Man" protest in Tahrir Square and create a "reform" package or else face a military coup.

When asked by a CNN correspondent what he wanted from the protesters during the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak, he replied, "Go home."

In an interview with a Western news channel last year, Suleiman remarked, "Egyptians are not ready for democracy."

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