Multiple sources have told Al-Jazeera that ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak suffered a stroke and is on an artificial respirator, but that he is not “clinically dead,” as previous reports had claimed. Reuters and the Associated Press also cite sources saying the deposed president is on life support.
According to Al-Jazeera’s Mike Hanna: “We do understand from family sources that Hosni Mubarak is improving. We believe he is still in a coma.”
Earlier, the state-run news agency MENA reported that Mubarak had been declared clinically dead upon arriving at a military hospital on Tuesday evening. “Mubarak’s heart stopped beating and was subjected to a defibrillator several times but did not respond,” the MENA release stated.
However, senior officials, including military leaders, have now contradicted that earlier report. Gen. Mamdouh Shahin, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, reportedly told CNN that Mubarak “is not clinically dead as reported, but his health is deteriorating and he is in critical condition.”
Mubarak, 84, ruled Egypt for nearly 30 years, steering the nation through the turmoil that swept a Middle East buffeted by wars, terrorism and religious extremism. But the war hero and savior of his country became a criminal convicted for his role in the deaths of those fighting to oust him.
Mubarak’s health had been failing since he was sentenced to life in prison on June 2, after he was convicted of failing to prevent the killing of protesters in a February 2011 uprising against his rule.
Doctors at the prison hospital used a defibrillator twice on June 11 after they could not find a pulse on the deposed leader. An AP story at the time said Mubarak “was slipping in and out of consciousness, was suffering from high blood pressure and breathing difficulties, and was in a deep depression, according to security officials at the prison.”
The son of a low-level bureaucrat in the Nile Delta, Mubarak completed Egypt’s three-year military academy in two years and rose quickly through the ranks of the Egyptian air force, according to a 2011 profile in the Washington Post.
He was tapped as Egypt’s vice president in 1975 and thrust into the presidency at the age of 53 on October 6, 1981, when Islamist radicals gunned down then President Anwar Sadat at a military parade.
Mubarak himself survived six assassination attempts. He won four terms in single-candidate referendums and easily carried off the first contested election in 2005.
During his presidency, Mubarak was a key US ally in the Middle East, a stalwart against the West’s Islamist enemies, even joining the 1999 invasion of Iraq. He was also able to rebuild relationships with neighboring countries that were strained after Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel.
Mubarak kept the peace with Israel while keeping Egypt free from Islamic militarism. On November 17, 1997, an Islamic militant group killed 58 tourists and four Egyptians at an ancient temple near Luxor. Reuters called it the “most dramatic act in a 1990s rebellion by Islamists seeking to establish an Islamic state.” The revolt was eventually crushed by state security.