Assassination of Anwar Sadat
Part of Terrorism in Egypt
Platform where Anwar Sadat was assassinated
LocationCairo, Egypt
Coordinates30°3′51.23″N 31°18′53.27″E / 30.0642306°N 31.3147972°E / 30.0642306; 31.3147972
Date6 October 1981; 42 years ago (1981-10-06)
TargetAnwar Sadat
Deaths11 (including Sadat)
PerpetratorsKhalid al-Islambuli and Muhammad Abd al-Salam Faraj
DefendersSadat bodyguards and soldiers
MotiveOpposition to Sadat's government and its recognition of Israel

On 6 October 1981, Anwar Sadat, the 3rd President of Egypt, was assassinated during the annual victory parade held in Cairo to celebrate Operation Badr, during which the Egyptian Army had crossed the Suez Canal and taken back the Sinai Peninsula from Israel at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War.[1] The assassination was undertaken by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Although the motive has been debated, Sadat's assassination likely stemmed from Arab nationalists who opposed Sadat's peace initiative with Israel and the United States relating to the Camp David Accords.[2]


Following the Camp David Accords, Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin shared the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. However, 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 Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Jama'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. He 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 he 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

Earlier in Sadat's presidency, Islamists had benefited from the "rectification revolution" and the release from prison of activists jailed under Gamal Abdel Nasser,[8] but his 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 1,500 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 roundup missed a jihad cell in the military led by Lieutenant Khalid Al-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]


Sadat (left) with the U.S. President Jimmy Carter (right) in Washington, D.C., on 8 April 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 during the Yom Kippur War.[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 by. One truck contained the assassination squad, led by Lieutenant Khalid Islambouli. As it 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; Anwar's nephew Talaat El Sadat 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 exited the truck, firing into the stands until they had exhausted their ammunition, and then attempted to flee. 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 ten others were killed outright or suffered fatal wounds, including Major General Hassan Allam, Khalfan Nasser Mohammed (a general from the Omani delegation), Eng. Samir Helmy Ibrahim, Mohammed Yousuf Rashwan (the presidential photographer), Saeed Abdel Raouf Bakr, Chinese engineer Zhang Baoyu,[15] as well as the Cuban ambassador to Egypt, and a Coptic Orthodox bishop, Anba Samuel [de] of Social and Ecumenical Services.[16]

Twenty-eight were wounded, including Vice President Hosni Mubarak, Irish Defence Minister James Tully, Sayed Marei, advisor to Anwar Sadat, Belgian ambassador Claude Ruelle, Coptic Bishop Samuel and four United States Armed Forces liaison officers.[17] Security forces were momentarily stunned, but reacted within 45 seconds. The Swedish ambassador Olov Ternström managed to escape safely.[18][19] Egyptian state television, which was broadcasting the parade live, quickly cut to military music and Quranic recitations.[20] One of the attackers was killed, and the three others injured and arrested. Sadat was airlifted to a military hospital,[21] and died nearly two hours later.[21] 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."[22]


This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (February 2011)
A marker at the Unknown Soldier Memorial, where Sadat is buried.

In conjunction with the assassination, an insurrection was organized in Asyut in Upper Egypt. Rebels took control of the security services HQ for a day and held off government forces for another day. Six attackers and 68 policemen and soldiers were killed in the fighting. Government control was not restored until paratroopers from Cairo arrived and the Air Force scrambled a pair of jets to intimidate the militants. Most of the militants convicted of fighting received light sentences and served only three years in prison.[23]

The assassination was generally greeted with enthusiasm from governments in the Islamic world, which regarded Sadat as a traitor for the Egypt–Israel peace treaty. The state newspaper of Syria, Tishreen, carried the headline "Egypt Today Bids Farewell to the Ultimate Traitor," while Iran named a street in Tehran after Islambouli.[20] President Siad Barre of Somalia and President Gaafar Nimeiry of Sudan, along with deposed Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, were the only Muslim political leaders to attend Sadat's funeral.[20]

Sadat was initially succeeded by Sufi Abu Taleb, Speaker of the People's Assembly, who assumed office as acting President and immediately declared a state of emergency. Eight days later on 14 October 1981, Sadat's Vice President, Hosni Mubarak, was sworn in as the new Egyptian President, remaining in office for nearly 30 years until his resignation as a result of the 2011 Egyptian revolution.[24][25][26]


Sadat was buried in the Unknown Soldier Memorial, located in the Nasr City district of Cairo. The inscription on his grave reads: "The hero of war and peace".[14] The funeral was attended by three former Presidents of the United StatesRichard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter—as well as Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, French President François Mitterrand, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Italian President Sandro Pertini, Irish President Patrick Hillery, Spanish Prime Minister Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo, and King Baudouin of Belgium.[27] The sitting U.S. President Ronald Reagan, who had survived an assassination attempt of his own several months prior, opted not to attend because of the tense political situation, although his administration would be represented by Secretary of State Alexander Haig, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, and Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick. Stevie Wonder and Walter Cronkite also attended.[27][20]

Execution of assassins

Islambouli and the other assassins were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were executed on 15 April 1982, the two army men by firing squad and the three civilians by hanging.[28]

See also



  1. ^ a b "1981 Year in Review: Anwar Sadat Killed". UPI. Archived from the original on 19 January 2011. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
  2. ^ "Sadat as a president of Egypt". News Egypt. 8 October 2009. Archived from the original on 23 October 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  3. ^ BBC Timeline: Arab League
  4. ^ "1979: Israel and Egypt shake hands on peace deal". BBC News. 26 March 1979. Retrieved 1 November 2023.
  5. ^ "Camp David Accords". Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2013.
  6. ^ a b Palmer, Monte; Palmer, Princess (2007). At the Heart of Terror: Islam, Jihadists, and America's War on Terrorism. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 87. ISBN 978-0742536036.
  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, pp. 103–104.
  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 pp. 42–43 Qasim deals specifically with rumors of Jihad Group involvement in the assassination, and denies them entirely.
  14. ^ a b Fahmy, Mohamed Fadel (7 October 2011). "30 years later, questions remain over Sadat killing, peace with Israel". CNN.
  15. ^ "我驻埃及使馆在开罗祭奠烈士张宝玉" [Chinese Embassy in Egypt pays homage to martyr Zhang Baoyu in Cairo] (in Chinese). People's Daily. 30 September 2017. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  16. ^ Anba Samuel in German Wikipedia [circular reference]
  17. ^ Hopkirk, Peter (7 October 1981). "Middle East turmoil after Sadat's assassination by own soldiers". The Times. No. 61049. p. 1. Retrieved 14 October 2023.
  18. ^ Edelstam, Anne (22 July 2014). "Three ladies in Cairo. Del V. Back to square one" [Three ladies in Cairo. Part V. Back to square one]. Tidningen Kulturen (in Swedish). Archived from the original on 3 September 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  19. ^ "Dagens händelser 6 oktober" [Today's events October 6]. Sundsvalls Tidning (in Swedish). 6 October 2006. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
  20. ^ a b c d Ghattas, Kim (2020). Black wave : Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the forty-year rivalry that unraveled culture, religion, and collective memory in the Middle East (1 ed.). New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-1-250-13120-1. OCLC 1110155277.
  21. ^ a b "On this day: 6 October". BBC News. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  22. ^ "On this day". The New York Times. 6 October 1981. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  23. ^ Sageman, Marc (2004). Understanding Terror Networks. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-0-8122-3808-2.
  24. ^ MacManus, James (7 October 2010). "From the archive, 7 October 1981: President Sadat assassinated at army parade". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  25. ^ Mohy El Deen, Sherif (10 August 2017). "Egypt's Unexceptional State of Emergency". Arab Reform Initiative. Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  26. ^ "Profile: Hosni Mubarak". BBC News. 27 January 2011. Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  27. ^ a b Apap (10 October 1981). "OFFICIALS FROM AROUND THE WORLD ATTENDING SADAT'S FUNERAL". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 December 2021.
  28. ^ "Sadat Assassins are Executed". The Glasgow Herald. 16 April 1982. Retrieved 16 February 2011.