After his stint as Egypt’s de facto leader, he was soon sacked by the country’s first freely elected president, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, and spent his remaining years largely out of public view.
A veteran of Egypt’s wars, Tantawi had long served as Mubarak’s defence minister and as chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. He became the acting head of state after an 18-day popular uprising ended Mubarak’s rule in early 2011.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi paid tribute on Tuesday to Tantawi as one of “Egypt’s most loyal sons” who had served the nation for more than half a century and run it “during a very critical time”.
Sisi also absolved Tantawi of responsibility for killings while the military was in power, including of protesters in downtown Cairo and a Port Said sports stadium, saying: “I swear… this man is innocent of any blood (spilled) during that period.” Sisi, who has repeatedly credited Tantawi with his political career, declared a period of national mourning without specifying how many days. The Egyptian Football Association scrapped any celebrations in a domestic Super Cup match on Tuesday.
The US embassy in Cairo as well as the European Union’s delegation and the Arab League offered their condolences, along with Gulf allies Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Tantawi was laid to rest later in a military funeral led by Sisi and attended by top military brass, ministers and Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II.
Soldiers marched carrying commemorative floral wreaths at the ceremony as a 21-gun salute sounded and a band played nationalistic songs.