Did Hosni Mubarak die in surgery?
Above: An Egyptian video (عربي) predicting Mubarak’s death.
The talk of the Egyptian blogosphere right now is a fast-spreading rumor that President Hosni Mubarak has died. Hundreds of Egyptian and Arabic-speaking Twitter users are posting news of the 81-year-old leader’s death. The reports occurred after reports of Mubarak dying in a German hospital were broadcast on Russian television and on Arabic television.
Hosni Mubarak has been the President of Egypt since 1981, making him the country’s longest-serving leader since Mohammed Ali.
So… is Mubarak dead?
Here is what is publicly known. As always, the caveat must be made that Egypt exercises heavy-handed press censorship on the press. Also keep in mind that Mubarak’s health is among the most taboo subjects in the Egyptian press: Journalists have been jailed in the past for writing about Mubarak’s health. So all this, again, is written with a grain of salt.
Hosni Mubarak traveled to Heidelberg University Hospital in Heidelberg, Germany two weeks ago to have a growth removed from his small intestine and to have his gall bladder removed. Three public statements were made in the past week.
The first, by Health Minister Hatem al-Gabali, is a week old:
“The state of the president’s health continues to improve two days after the operation [...] Over the coming two days, the medical team treating the president will make a new report on the president’s health condition.”
The second is from Dr. Markus Buechler, a pancreatic surgery specialist at Heidelberg. He reported that benign tissues were removed from Mubarak a few days later and that he was in the ICU:
“The final pathology report has confirmed the benign nature of the tissues removed during the surgery [...] President Mubarak’s convalescence phase in the coming days will include increased physical mobility to recover from all the effects of the surgical intervention. [...] President Mubarak’s overall medical condition continues to improve in a satisfactory manner. Yesterday he was transferred from the intensive care unit to a regular room in our hospital. [...] He is also expected to gradually return to normal diet. The president will remain during this phase under our medical care and our direct and continuous supervision.”
The third statement was made on Sunday morning, German time, again by Buechler. This one was much more curt:
“Mubarak is progressing normally.”
Note that none of the hospital statements said anything about when Mubarak would be released.
In a strange bout of timing, Egyptian authorities decided to ban Skype.
If Mubarak is indeed dead, a power struggle is expected between his hand-picked successor, son Gamal Mubarak, military/intelligence candidate General Omar Suleiman and former International Atomic Energy Head Mohammed el-Baradei, who recently returned to Egypt to a flurry of public acclaim.
Once again, we do not know if Mubarak is alive or dead. We do know that the wall of silence around his hospital stay, however, is strange even for these circumstances. But most important of all, Mubarak is 81 years old. World leaders who have reached that age, frankly, do not tend to stay for long.