Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, 85, Dies; Led Egypt After Mubarak’s Fall

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A general and minister of defense, he took power after the Arab Spring uprising, overseeing crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters.

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Egyptian General Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who forced Hosni Mubarak to step down in the midst of the 2011 Arab Spring uprising, died on Tuesday. He was 85 years old.


His death was announced by the President of Egypt. Field Marshal Tantavi, who had been ill for several months, died at a hospital in Cairo, according to a person close to his family.

For some 20 years Mr. Mubarak’s defense minister, Field Marshal Tantavi, was the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which took over after Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. Known for being unquestionably loyal to the former president, he cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, which continued under the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. General al-Sisi’s government has since taken back many of the freedoms it gained in 2011.

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Field Marshal Tantavi died 19 months after Mr. Mubarak died at the Cairo Military Hospital.

Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Soliman was born on October 31, 1935 in Cairo.

He fought alongside Israel in the Suez Crisis of 1956 and the wars of 1967 and 1973. He became Defense Minister in 1991, two years after Mr. Mubarak ousted Field Marshal Abdul-Halim Abu Ghazala, reportedly due to his growing popularity.

Field Marshal Tantavi ran Egypt for 17 months, from February 11, 2011, when Mr. Mubarak stepped down, until the election of Mohamed Morsi in June 2012.

After a short honeymoon, relations grew increasingly hostile between the ruling generals and the pro-democracy movement, which had led an 18-day rebellion against Mr. Mubarak.

In one of the most violent incidents, in October 2011, armored military vehicles ran over protesters participating in a sit-in in front of the headquarters of state television, killing several people. This marked the beginning of a fierce campaign to quell dissent, resulting in the deaths of dozens at the hands of security forces in street clashes and the arrest of hundreds, many of them civil society leaders.

Youth groups fueling the rebellion against Mr. Mubarak accused Field Marshal Tantavi of adopting the same violent tactics as his predecessor. The frustration over police brutality was a rallying cry of the 2011 uprising. But the strength of the army increased under the leadership of Field Marshal Tantavi.

The mistreatment of detainees in government custody continued, many of them arrested on false charges. More than 10,000 civilians were sentenced by military tribunals.

Before the standoff between the army and the group reached its peak in 2012, Field Marshal Tantavi and the army’s Supreme Council had lukewarm support from the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most powerful Islamist group.

The Muslim Brotherhood had long been oppressed under Mr. Mubarak. The group won the election that followed his downfall. First he won a majority in parliament, then Mr. Morsi won the 2012 presidential elections, becoming the first civilian to hold the position.

But a court dissolved the Brotherhood-led parliament, and the generals gave themselves legislative and budgetary authority and control over the process of drafting a new constitution. They put severe limits on the authority of the president, days before Mr. Morsi, who was a member of the Brotherhood, was sworn in as president in June 2012.

Only two months later, Mr. Morsi used the militants’ attack on troops in the Sinai Peninsula to oust Field Marshal Tantavi, along with the Chief of Staff, Sami Anan. He designated General al-Sisi, who was then the head of military intelligence, as Minister of Defense. Gen al-Sisi would eventually oversee the removal of Mr. Morsi amid more street protests.

Field Marshal Tantavi is survived by his wife and two sons.

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