Skip to main content

30 years later, questions remain over Sadat killing, peace with Israel

By Mohamed Fadel Fahmy, for CNN
October 7, 2011 -- Updated 0214 GMT (1014 HKT)
Egyptian President Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated during an annual parade in October 1981.
Egyptian President Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat was assassinated during an annual parade in October 1981.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egyptian president was assassinated in October 1981
  • Sadat's daughter has implicated Hosni Mubarak
  • Relations with Israel have deteriorated this year

(CNN) -- October 6, 1981, remains etched in the minds of Egyptians who witnessed the assassination of President Mohamed Anwar al-Sadat at the hands of four military officers during an annual parade celebrating the anniversary of Egypt's 1973 war with Israel.

In 1979, Sadat signed the Camp David peace treaty with Israel that won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the fury of many Arabs who accused him of betraying their cause.

In a tribute to the former "hero of war and peace," as the inscription on his grave reads, Egyptian State TV ran footage Thursday of the assassination, depicting the moment Sadat stood in the pavilion saluting his killers while they fired at him as French Mirage fighters screeched over the parade grounds as part of the festivities.

Khaled El Islambouly, the lead gunman, was captured and executed.

Sadat's bullet-riddled body was rushed to the Maadi Military Hospital and the president was proclaimed dead at 2.40 p.m. due to "intense nervous shock and internal bleeding in the chest cavity."

Talaat El Sadat, a former member of parliament and the nephew of the slain president, recalls the details of that grim day.

"The president thought the killers were part of the show when they approached the stands firing, so he stood saluting them," El Sadat told CNN.

El Sadat claims his uncle refused to wear bulletproof vests and always confidently argued, "I am among my sons."

An investigation uncovered evidence that the killers had plotted the attack with Al Gamaa al-Islamiyya, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot that had failed ambitions of launching an Islamic revolution in the mid-1980s.

Aboud El Zomor, the leader of Al Gamaa al-Islamiyya, was convicted of plotting the assassination and spent almost 30 years behind bars before his release in April, among hundreds of political prisoners detained during President Hosni Mubarak's regime.

Three decades later, in his first interview with a U.S. television news organization since his release, El Zomor was unapologetic about being a part of the killing of Sadat.

"Our role was related to assisting but not decision-making," El Zomor recalled in his interview with CNN. "All that we did, our role, is that we had ammunition that we sent" to the assassins.

"The idea was just to change and provide an alternative leader who could save Egypt from a crisis of the political dead-end we lived in then," El Zomor explained. "I intended complete change, not just the murder of Sadat."

He cheered the January 25 revolution that ousted Mubarak on February 11 and felt "jealous" that his own religious revolution did not succeed. He also claimed that Al Gamaa al-Islamiyya has renounced its military arm because there was "no need to fight the oppression of the former Mubarak regime."

The fall of regimes almost always comes with the unveiling of secret documents and conspiracy theories.

Sadat's assassination was recently revisited by his daughter, Roqaya al-Sadat, a month after Mubarak was toppled. She filed a case in March at the general prosecutor's office claiming new evidence had emerged implicating Mubarak, who was Sadat's vice president.

"The lead gunman's machine gun jammed and he reached in the vehicle for another gun," said Talaat El Sadat. He demands an explanation to how guns without their safety pins were smuggled in.

"Where was my uncle's elite security all this time?"

"The answer (to all of this) is Hosni Mubarak. He benefits the most from the killing, assisted by the Americans and the Israelis," El Sadat said.

Meanwhile, the peace with Israel that Sadat worked relentlessly to achieve may be at the brink of collapse.

Anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt in the past few months has been its most violent since the times of Sadat, as highlighted by the pro-democracy protesters who breached the Israeli Embassy on September 9.

The same protesters who brought down the Mubarak regime insist on ending the exports of gas to Israel and many call for the cancellation of the Camp David Peace Treaty after an incident on the Israeli-Egyptian border left five Egyptian soldiers dead.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT