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HomeNewsHT This Day: October 7, 1981 - President Sadat Assassinated

HT This Day: October 7, 1981 – President Sadat Assassinated



Grenade, rifle assault by six soldiers at army parade

Three attackers killed in gun battle; emergency declared


Cairo- President Anwar Sadat was killed today by a group of Egyptian soldiers who attacked his reviewing stand with grenades and assault rifles during a military parade in Cairo. 

National Assembly Speaker Soufi Abu Taleb, who has been named, acting President, has declared a state of emergency for a year throughout the country. 

The naming of Speaker Taleb as acting President was announced by Vice-President Hosni Mubarak in a radio-television address. 

A new leader will be elected within 60 days, Mr. Mubarak said, in the first official statement on Mr. Sadat’s death to be broadcast in Egypt. 

Mr. Mubarak said the Cabinet was unchanged. Groomed by Mr. Sadat to be his successor, Mr. Mubarak pledged that Egypt would continue Mr. Sadat’s foreign and domestic policies. 

He remains in charge of the armed forces and was expected to exercise strong powers in the interim Government. 

One of the President’s military aides and at least one of his bodyguards were also killed in the hand grenade-and-automatic weapon attack during the military parade.

Mr. Hosny Mubarak, Defence Minister General Abdel Halim Abu Ghabale, the Chief of the General Staff, Gen. Abdel Rab El-Nabi Hafis and several diplomats including the Ambassadors of Australia and Belgium, were wounded in the attack. 

The Belgian Ambassador, Mr Claude Ruelle, was in extremely serious condition in hospital, a Belgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said in Brussels. 

Egypt’s Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Ashraf Ghorbal, said his Government had told him that three of the attackers were killed and three were captured alive. 

An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official, who requested anonymity, said many Foreign Ministry officials and others were wounded. 

Three members of a US military delegation were wounded, the Defence Department said in Washington. 

The delegation headed by the chief of the U.S Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) Gen. Robert Kingston, were on the reviewing stand. Gen. Kingston himself was not wounded. 

Mr Sadat, who broke with the rest of the Arab World to make peace between his country and Israel, was assassinated on the anniversary of his greatest military triumph. Eight years ago on this day Egyptian troops launched a successful surprise attack across the Suez Canal into the Israeli-occupied Sinai peninsula. 

The official in the Presidency said he had lived several hours after being hit in today’s shooting. The source could give no further detail.

As a convoy of trucks towing artillery weapons passed about 20 metres from where President Sadat was taking the salute, several-hand grenades were thrown at the President’s dais, one of the trucks stopped and about six young soldiers in blue berets leapt out and sprinted towards Mr Sadat, their Kalashnikov assault rifles blazing. 


Bullets sprayed into the grandstand as people crashed to the floor amid tumbling chairs.

After a brief but fierce gun battle, several of the soldiers were overpowered and dragged off amid a kicking, struggling crowd.

People were piled up in a bloodstained tangle on the floor of the stand from where Mr Sadat had been watching the parade and several appeared to have serious wounds.

Mr Sofi Abu Taleb, the Speaker of the Egyptian Parliament who was sitting nearby, told Reuters the President was hustled away in the pandemonium. Mr Sadat was flown to hospital in a helicopter.

Defence Minister Ghazala took control as the gunbattle abated, calmly issuing orders to guards and officers around him.

Among those carried away on stretchers were Bishop Samuel, a leader of Egypt’s Christian Coptic Church, Belgian Ambassador Claud Ruelle and one of Mr Sadat’s closest aides, Sayed Marei. 

Diplomats who were only metres away from the President said it appeared Mr Marei and Mr Ruclie were both seriously wounded.

They also reported an American officer, Lt.-Col. Charles Luney, and a member of an Omani delegation injured. 

Angry soldiers hustled foreign correspondents from the scene as ambulances carried away the injured had it appeared that at least a dozen people had been hit by bullets.

Cairo Television cut its live coverage of the parade, after a number of explosions were heard. 

A Cairo Radio announcer shouted “traitors” and interrupted his description of the scene.

Neither the radio nor the television explained what had happened. The television and radio later reported that the parade had ended and that President Sadat had left the scene. 

Neither mentioned the shooting.

When President Gamel Abel Nasser died on Sept. 28, 1970, he left a void few thought could be filled. 

In stepped Mr Anwar Sadat, a virtually unknown Vice-President and Egypt changed direction.

While Mr Nasser had led the Arabs in losing wars against Israel, Mr Sadat led them in what he hailed a “glorious Arab victory” in the 1973 West Asia war. Then at the risk of condemnation by other Arab leaders, he became a peacemaker in November 1977 by visiting Israel.

The trip by the Egyptian President shattered Arab precedent.

Within three years after taking office, Mr Sadat crushed one internal revolt, expelled 15,000 Soviet advisers and started turning Egypt’s orientation from the Soviet Union to the United States.

In November 1977 he declared he would go to “even to the Israeli Knesset to discuss peace if it would save even one Egyptian soldier.”

Less than two weeks later, Mr Sadat was in Israel. The visit culminated in the 1978 US-mediated Camp David accords that established peace between the two nations. 


Mr Sadat waged an off-again, on-again relationship with Col Moammar Khadafy, leader of Libya, Egypt’s western neighbour and one of Mr Sadist’s harshest critics.

In July 1977, Egypt and Libya clashed for five days along the border from the Mediterranean Sea south into the desert. The skirmishes subsided, but the rhetoric heated up from time to time.

In August 1976, Mr Sadat won Parliament’s unanimous nominations for another six-year term. He vowed to liberate all Arab lands taken by the Israelis in the 1987 West Asia war and to establish a “Palestinian entity.” 

After the 1973 West Asia war broke out, Mr Sadat was hailed as a hero. In October, he sent his troops storming across the Suez Canal in an operation that caught the Israelis by surprise.

While Mr Sadat was waging war and questing for peace, he turned his countrys economy from Mr Nasser’s socialist to an ever-widening open-door policy in search of West money and products.

In 1974, he launched a policy of economic liberalisation and invited Western companies to do business with Egypt. 

Mr Sadat held several posts under President Nasser, including Secretary-General of the Islamic Congress. He was named Vice-President less than 10 months before Mr Nasser died.

Mr Sadat, third President of Egypt, was born on Dec. 25, 1918, in the poor Nile delta village of Mit Abu Al-Kom. His father was a civilian clerk in the army. His mother was Sudanese. 

His family later moved to Cairo and Mr Sadat entered the military academy and graduated in 1938. One of his classmates was Nasser. 

After World War II, Mr Sadat was jailed twice for involvement in assassination plots against royalist politicians but was acquitted both times. Released from jail in 1948, he drove a truck and worked as a journalist for a time.

Mr Sadat was well-educated and taught himself English, German and Persian. A dapper man, he leaned to British-tailored suits and smoking jackets. His dazzling smile came across well on television: he has used his rural roots to build a “man of the people” image.

Many say his subtle elegance was due to his half-English second wife Jiban, by whom he had three daughters and a son. Under Islamic law, Mr Sadat still was legally married to his first wife, who lived in the delta. He had three daughters by her, all of whom married army officers.

When Mr Sadat took over from Mr Nasser, many critics claimed he had little executive experience and referred to him as “Colonel Yes Sir,” referring to his deference to Mr Nasser. 

In May 1971, plotters led by leftleaning Vice-President Aly Sabry decided to act before Mr Sadat became too powerful, introducing reforms, cutting prices and developing a folksy image. Mr Sabry and two of Mr Nasser’s henchmen, Presidential Affairs Minister Sami Sharaf and Interior Minister Sharawi Goman, who controlled the police and the intelligence apparatus, forced a confrontation when Mr Sadat agreed to federate with Libya and Syria. 

At a meeting of the leadership, Mr Sadat was outvoted.


He then fired Mr Sabry. When six Cabinet Ministers, including Mr Sharaf, Mr Goman and the War Minister resigned in an attempt to convince him, he put them under house arrest. 

They were later convicted of treason and sent to prison. 

Dissolving the Arab Socialist Union, the country’s only political party, Mr Sadat ordered new elections. He held a referendum on the federation and a new Constitution. Both passed with 99 per cent of the vote.

To reassure the Russians, Mr. Sadat signed a 15-year treaty of friendship and co-operation. But he sent the Russian military advisers home in July 1972, saying the Soviet Union, despite his four visits to Moscow, would not provide the equipment needed to wage a war against Israel. Expecting his dramatic initiative to budge Washington, Mr Sadat was disappointed when the stalemate continued. 

At home, a wave of internal dissent hit campuses, the Muslim and Christian communities and the army, but Mr Sadat rode it out. 

As 1973 drew to a close, Mr Sadat counselled Egyptians to be patient. In April, he decided there was no alternative to war. During a secret visit to Damascus in August, he and Syrian President Hefez Assad set D-day. 

Mr Sadat also worked that summer to shore up the Arab alliance in preparation for the battle, abandoning a union with Libya in favour of solidifying ties with Saudi Arabia. He urged the Saudis to use their vast ad wealth to pressure the US when hostilities came. 

One of Mr Sadat’s boldest moves was the signing in September 28, 1978, in the US of the Camp David accords with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and former US President Jimmy Carter. 

Although the accords called for a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, it urged further negotiations on creating a form of autonomy for Palestinians living on Israeli-occupied land. That contentious issue resisted agreement between the two nations and talks resumed only this year.

Although the treaty evoked the Opposition of almost the entire Arab world and resulted in the Arab boycott of Egypt, Mr Sadat and Mr Begin were awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1978.

On March 26, 1979, Mr Sadat signed the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty with Mr Begin and Mr Carter.

Last month, citing an alleged plot to incite Muslim Christian strife, Mr Sadat ordered the arrest of 1,536 political opponents, including Muslim fundamentalists, Coptic Christian leaders, Opposition party leaders, journalists, lawyers and former politicians. 

Mr Sadat later expelled the Soviet Ambassador, six top Soviet diplomats and about 700 Soviet advisers working in Egypt, accusing the Soviet Union of efforts to incite sectarian strife. 


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