In 1981, an assassination team led by army lieutenant Khalid Islambouli attacked Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat during the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Operation Badr, the code name for the Egyptian military operation to cross the Suez Canal and seize the Bar-Lev Line of Israeli fortifications on October 6, 1973.
Sadat LivesThe assassins, who attacked with grenades and rifles, failed to take out their target but did manage to kill eleven others, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak and Cuba's ambassador to Egypt.
Ringleader Islambouli was tried for treason, found guilty and executed in April 1982. Over three hundred prominent Islamic radicals were arrested along with him in connection with the attack, including Ayman al-Zawahiri and Omar Abdel-Rahman, both of whom were sentenced to life in prison.
A new story by Eric LippsSadat would become a mortal foe of the Islamists after his near-assassination, pursuing them aggressively until his death from heart failure on May 1, 1990. His harsh treatment of Islamic radicals would further alienate Iran and other hard-line states already angry at him for his peace overtures to Israel, and would cast a shadow over his efforts at domestic political reform, damaging his reputation in the West. Nonetheless, at his death he would be eulogized as "the indispensable man" in U.S. efforts to defuse the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. It would be Sadat, for example, who would finally persuade the Saudis to recognize Israel in 1989.
Ironically, that achievement would have a dark sequel, when in 1993 Islamist fanatics calling themselves "Al Qaeda" attacked Riyadh, killing Saudi king Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud and many other members of the Saudi royal family, plunging the country into chaos and presenting U.S. President Bill Clinton with his first major foreign-policy crisis. A reluctant Clinton found himself forced to assemble an international coalition to use military force to stabilize Saudi Arabia in order to keep its oil flowing, barely two years after President George H. W. Bush had done the same to force Iraq's dictator Saddam Hussein to end his armed occupation of neighboring Kuwait. Al Qaeda's leader, the wealthy Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, would be killed in the subsequent fighting and would become a martyr in the eyes of would-be anti-American jihadis.