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Omar Suleiman Was Assassination Target During Egypt Uprising, Foreign Minister Claims

Omar Suleiman

BASSEM MROUE   02/24/11 01:04 PM ET   AP

CAIRO — Egypt's former Vice President Omar Suleiman was targeted in an assassination attempt during the recent democracy uprising when assailants firing from an ambulance riddled his car with bullets, the foreign minister said.

One of Suleiman's bodyguards was killed and his driver seriously wounded in the attack, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told Egyptian television station Al-Hayat late Wednesday. He said Suleiman's motorcade came under attack in Cairo's neighborhood of Manshiyet el-Bakri near Heliopolis, site of Mubarak's presidential palace.

Asked about the attack during a news conference with his German counterpart on Thursday, Aboul Gheit would only say: "I imagine that Egyptian investigators are doing their job regarding this."

Suleiman, Egypt's longtime intelligence chief and confidant of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, was appointed vice president on Jan. 29, four days into a popular uprising against Mubarak's regime.

He was the first deputy Mubarak ever appointed in nearly 30 years as president. He was seen as his designated successor amid rising pressure by government opponents who did not want Mubarak to pass power to his son Gamal, as had been widely expected. It was one of a series of rapid changes at the highest levels of government and promises of reform that Mubarak made during the 18-day uprising in a vain attempt to cling to power.

However, protests persisted and Mubarak was forced to hand over power to a ruling military council on Feb. 11. Suleiman withdrew from the political scene after Mubarak's resignation.

The foreign minister did not say when the assault took place. U.S. television network Fox first reported the assassination attempt on Feb. 4. and said two people were killed in the attack.

Aboul Gheit's comments to Al-Hayat, carried by the official Egyptian news agency MENA, were the first official confirmation of the incident. The foreign minister said he saw the bullet-riddled car, but it was not clear whether he witnessed the attack or went to the scene later. He said the assailants used a stolen ambulance, and that the severely wounded driver might have died later.

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Filed by Whitney Snyder  |