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Assassination of Anwar Sadat
DateOctober 6, 1981
LocationCairo, Egypt
Result Anwar Sadat killed
 Egypt Military defectors
Commanders and leaders
Egypt Anwar Sadat Khalid Islambouli Executed
? 4 gunmen
Casualties and losses
11 killed (including Sadat)
28 wounded
1 killed, 3 wounded and captured

The assassination of Anwar Sadat occurred on 6 October 1981. Anwar Sadat, the President of Egypt, was assassinated during the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Operation Badr (1973), during which the Egyptian Army had crossed the Suez Canal and taken back Sinai Peninsula from Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War.[1] A fatwā approving the assassination had been obtained from Omar Abdel-Rahman, a cleric later convicted in the US for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The assassination was undertaken by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.[2]

Background[edit | edit source]

Following the Camp David Accords, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. But the subsequent 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty was received with controversy among Arab nations, particularly the Palestinians. Egypt's membership in the Arab League was suspended (and not reinstated until 1989).[3] PLO Leader Yasser Arafat said "Let them sign what they like. False peace will not last."[4] In Egypt, various jihadist groups, such as the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, used the Camp David Accords to rally support for their cause.[5] Previously sympathetic to Sadat's attempt to integrate them into Egyptian society,[6] Egypt's Islamists now felt betrayed and publicly called for the overthrow of the Egyptian president and the replacement of the nation's system of government with a government based on Islamic theocracy.[6]

The last months of Sadat's presidency were marked by internal uprising. Sadat dismissed allegations that the rioting was incited by domestic issues, believing that the Soviet Union was recruiting its regional allies in Libya and Syria to incite an uprising that would eventually force him out of power. Following a failed military coup in June 1981, Sadat ordered a major crackdown that resulted in the arrest of numerous opposition figures. Though Sadat still maintained high levels of popularity in Egypt, it has been said that he was assassinated "at the peak" of his unpopularity.[7]

Egyptian Islamic Jihad[edit | edit source]

Earlier in his presidency, Islamists had benefited from the 'rectification revolution' and the release from prison of activists jailed under Nasser[8] but Sadat's Sinai treaty with Israel enraged Islamists, particularly the radical Egyptian Islamic Jihad. According to interviews and information gathered by journalist Lawrence Wright, the group was recruiting military officers and accumulating weapons, waiting for the right moment to launch "a complete overthrow of the existing order" in Egypt. Chief strategist of El-Jihad was Abbud al-Zumar, a colonel in the military intelligence whose "plan was to kill the main leaders of the country, capture the headquarters of the army and State Security, the telephone exchange building, and of course the radio and television building, where news of the Islamic revolution would then be broadcast, unleashing—he expected—a popular uprising against secular authority all over the country."[9]

In February 1981, Egyptian authorities were alerted to El-Jihad's plan by the arrest of an operative carrying crucial information. In September, Sadat ordered a highly unpopular roundup of more than 1500 people, including many Jihad members, but also the Coptic Pope and other Coptic clergy, intellectuals and activists of all ideological stripes.[10] All non-government press was banned as well.[11] The round up missed a Jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who would succeed in assassinating Anwar Sadat that October.[12]

According to Tala'at Qasim, ex-head of the Gama'a Islamiyya interviewed in Middle East Report, it was not Islamic Jihad but his organization, known in English as the "Islamic Group", that organized the assassination and recruited the assassin (Islambouli). Members of the Group's 'Majlis el-Shura' ('Consultative Council') – headed by the famed 'blind shaykh' – were arrested two weeks before the killing, but they did not disclose the existing plans and Islambouli succeeded in assassinating Sadat.[13]

Assassination[edit | edit source]

Sadat (left), with President Jimmy Carter, in Washington, D.C. on April 8, 1980, during a visit to the White House.

On 6 October 1981, a victory parade was held in Cairo to commemorate the eighth anniversary of Egypt's crossing of the Suez Canal.[1] Sadat was protected by four layers of security and eight bodyguards, and the army parade should have been safe due to ammunition-seizure rules. As Egyptian Air Force Mirage jets flew overhead, distracting the crowd, Egyptian Army soldiers and troop trucks towing artillery paraded. One troop contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. As the truck passed the tribune, Islambouli forced the driver at gunpoint to stop. From there, the assassins dismounted and Islambouli approached Sadat with three hand grenades concealed under his helmet. Sadat stood to receive his salute (Talaat El Sadat, nephew of Anwar, later said "The president thought the killers were part of the show when they approached the stands firing, so he stood saluting them"),[14] whereupon, Islambouli threw all his grenades at Sadat, only one of which exploded (but fell short), and additional assassins rose from the truck, indiscriminately firing AK-47 assault rifles into the stands. After Sadat was hit and fell to the ground, people threw chairs around him to shield him from the hail of bullets.

The attack lasted about two minutes. Sadat and eleven others were killed outright or suffered fatal wounds, including the Cuban ambassador, an Omani general, and a Coptic Orthodox bishop. Twenty-eight were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak, Irish Defence Minister James Tully, and four US military liaison officers. Security forces were momentarily stunned but reacted within 45 seconds. One of the attackers was killed, and the three others injured and arrested. Sadat was airlifted to a military hospital,[15] where eleven doctors operated on him. He died nearly two hours after he was taken to the hospital.[15] Sadat's death was attributed to "violent nervous shock and internal bleeding in the chest cavity, where the left lung and major blood vessels below it were torn."[16]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

A marker at the Unknown Soldier Memorial, where Sadat was buried.

In conjunction with the assassination, an insurrection was organized in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Rebels took control of the city for a few days and 68 policemen and soldiers were killed in the fighting. Government control was not restored until paratroopers from Cairo arrived. Most of the militants convicted of fighting received light sentences and served only three years in prison.[17]

Burial[edit | edit source]

Sadat was buried in the Unknown Soldier Memorial, located in the Nasr City district of Cairo. The inscription on his grave reads: "hero of war and peace".[14]

At first, Sadat was succeeded by Sufi Abu Taleb, who remained as the Acting President of Egypt until October 14, 1981, when Sadat's former Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, became the new Egyptian President for nearly 30 years until stepping down during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Assassins[edit | edit source]

Islambouli and the other assassins were tried, found guilty, sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad in April 1982.[18]

In 2012, Khaled Al-Islambouli's mother spoke highly of her son's assassination in the Iranian newspaper Fars. She said "I am very proud that my son killed Anwar Al-Sadat… [The government] called him [Khaled] a terrorist, a criminal, and a murderer, but they didn’t say that was he was defending Islam. They didn’t say anything about the oppressed people in Palestine, about Camp David, or how Sadat sold out the country to the Jews and violated the honour of the Islamic nation."[19]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 "1981 Year in Review: Anwar Sadat Killed". UPI. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. http://web.archive.org/web/20110119104455/http://www.upi.com/Audio/Year_in_Review/Events-of-1981/Anwar-Sadat-Killed/12311754163167-5/. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 
  2. "Sadat as a president of Egypt". News Egypt. 8 October 2009. http://news.egypt.com/en/sadat-as-a-president-of-egypt.html. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  3. BBC Timeline: Arab League
  4. 1979: Israel and Egypt shake hands on peace deal BBC News
  5. https://modernegypt.info/timeline/?random=483.76251850277185
  6. 6.0 6.1 Palmer, Monte; Palmer, Princess (2007). At the Heart of Terror: Islam, Jihadists, and America's War on Terrorism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 87. ISBN 978-0-7425-3603-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=shNdxlispXAC&pg=PA87. 
  7. Kepel 1993, p. 192.
  8. Kepel 1993, p. 74.
  9. Wright 2006, p. 49.
  10. 'Cracking Down', Time, 14 September 1981
  11. Kepel 1993, p. 103-4.
  12. Wright 2006, p. 50.
  13. For an account that uses this version of events, look at Middle East Report's January–March 1996 issue, specifically Hisham Mubarak's interview with ? On pages 42–43 Qasim deals specifically with rumors of Jihad Group involvement in the assassination, and denies them entirely.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Fahmy, Mohamed Fadel (October 7, 2011). "30 years later, questions remain over Sadat killing, peace with Israel". http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/06/world/meast/egypt-sadat-assassination/. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "On this day: 6 October". http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/6/newsid_2515000/2515841.stm. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  16. "On this day". 6 October 1981. http://www.nytimes.com/learning/general/onthisday/big/1006.html. Retrieved 23 December 2012. 
  17. Sageman, Marc, Understanding Terror Networks, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004, pp. 33–34
  18. "Sadat Assassins are Executed". The Glasgow Herald. 16 April 1982. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=Lfo9AAAAIBAJ&sjid=CkkMAAAAIBAJ&pg=3096,3218494&dq=. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  19. "I'm proud my son Khaled killed Anwar Sadat: Mother". 19 February 2012. http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/34912/Egypt/Politics-/Im-proud-my-son-Khaled-killed-Anwar-Sadat-Mother.aspx. 

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