Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi – a decorated veteran of wars against Israel in 1956, 1967 and 1973 has died at the age of 85, Egypt’s presidency said on Tuesday. Tantawi was the former head of the military council that ruled Egypt temporarily after the 2011 uprising.
He was defense minister for over 20 years and led the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) that ruled Egypt for a year-and-a-half after the removal of strongman President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
Tantawi was in the ingroup of Mubarak and was therefore unpopular with protesters who led the uprising in Tahrir Square. The military won a collective gratitude as an institution after deposing Mubarak to appease the demonstrators.
Yet the desire for change and respect for the troops under Tantawi’s command trumped concerns many had when he took power.
In August 2012, a few weeks after the Mohamed Mursi became president in what was described as the first free and fair elections in Egypt’s modern history, Tantawi was sacked as defense minister.
Tantawi then disappeared from public view until President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power after leading the army to overthrow Mursi in 2013 amid mass protests. He was honoured by Sisi and used to appear beside him in various public functions.
Sisi mourned Tantawi in a statement and offered condolences to his family.
Tantawi was “a leader and a statesman who took the responsibility of running the country during a very difficult period, during which he wisely and competently confronted the looming dangers that surrounded Egypt,” the statement said.
The general command of the armed forces and cabinet also mourned the former military leader.
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