CAIRO (Reuters) - The son-in-law of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, named by Israeli officials as a source for the Israeli intelligence service Mossad, died in London on Wednesday and the Egyptian state news agency quoted reports he had fallen from the balcony of his home.
Ashraf Marwan, 62, who was married to Abdel Nasser’s daughter Mona, had been living in London for many years after leaving Egyptian government service late in the 1970s.
Israeli media have said that on the eve of the Middle East war of October 1973 Marwan passed to Mossad a warning that Egypt and Syria were about to attack Israel.
Gad Shimron, a former Mossad officer turned military historian, told Reuters: “We know now, from testimony given by Israeli spymasters and made public years after the Yom Kippur War, that Marwan was the man who tipped off the Mossad.”
He gave the warning just hours before the Egyptian attack on Israeli forces on the east bank of the Suez Canal but Israel decided not to order a general mobilisation, Shimron added.
“Later, the chief of Israeli military intelligence justified the inaction by saying Marwan was suspected of being a double agent planted by the Egyptians,” he said.
The Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted police as saying Marwan had fallen from the balcony of his home in central London.
London police confirmed an Egyptian in his sixties had died and was understood to have fallen from a balcony. It declined to name him and said the death was being treated as unexplained.
Essam Abdel Samad, the head of the Union of Egyptians in Europe, said he had spoken to Marwan’s maid, who said she was the only other person in the fifth-floor flat at the time.
“She said she was working in the kitchen and he was in his office and the first thing she knew was when someone came to the door and said he had fallen,” he told the Egyptian satellite station al-Youm in a call from London.
Marwan worked as a senior information official for both Abdel Nasser and his successor, President Anwar Sadat, but Egyptian media have said he also had intelligence duties.
He acted as an envoy to Arab countries and between 1974 and 1979 he headed the Arab Industrialisation Organisation, an Arab-financed project to develop arms industries in Egypt.
Marwan’s wife flew from Beirut to Cairo on Wednesday evening and was met at the airport by family members dressed in black, come to pay condolences, witnesses said.
She will fly to London on Thursday, airport sources said.
Additional reporting by Dan Williams