Feb. 25 (UPI) -- Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled as an autocrat for three decades before stepping down during "Arab Spring" protests in 2011, died Tuesday, his family said.
Mubarak, 91, was one of the United States' most consistent allies in the Middle East, replacing Anwar Sadat after his 1981 assassination. Mubarak, who had surgery last month, was in the intensive care unit at a Cairo military hospital when he died.
"Indeed, to 'Allah we belong and to Allah we shall return.' My father Hosni Mubarak passed away this morning," son Alaa Mubarak wrote on Twitter.
Mubarak ruled Egypt as a strongman with U.S. support, maintaining peace accords with Israel, which were signed by Sadat while fighting Islamic extremism in his own country. It was the intensity of the protests in 2011 that eventually forced Mubarak to resign from office.
Mubarak was given a life sentence in 2012 for the deaths of protesters but an Egyptian appeals court overturned the verdict and he was cleared in a second trial.
Mubarak joined the military out of high school, becoming a skilled fighter pilot in the Egyptian Air Force and was eventually promoted to commander in 1972. He became a war hero for his leadership in an air campaign against Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.
Sadat would eventually tap him as his vice president. He was an important player in the peace accords with Israel in 1978 as Egypt became the first Arab country to recognize Israel's right to exist.