Why was Anwar Sadat assassinated in 1981?
Sadat Celebrating on the Day of Assassination
On October 7, 1981, Egypt was celebrating Egypt’s Armed Forces Day to commemorate its surprise attack on Israel in 1973. In this attack, Egyptian Army was initially successful in pushing back the Israeli forces who were occupying Sinai since 1967. However, Israel received help in the form of American weapons airlift and that’s where the tide turned in its favor. Egypt was defeated but not annihilated in this war which came to be known as Yom Kippur War. Egypt and Israel reached an impasse, a settlement which was seen as a victory for Egypt and its President Anwar Sadat.
The war strengthened Sadat’s stance to launch the next bold move against Israel, especially after the negotiations between Egypt and Israel, signing of the Camp David Accords in 1978 and Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979, however, he did not make through the day.
While Sadat and the whole of Egypt was still celebrating their accomplishments, a troop of French Mirage jet fighters soared past overhead as a part of the pageantry and at the same moment, several soldiers moved towards the reviewing stands, jumped off from the trucks they were riding, opened fire and threw grenades at the reviewing stand.
Sadat was rushed to the hospital but he had expired before reaching there. Hosni Mubarak, who was previously the vice president, assumed Sadat’s power. In a speech to his people several hours after the assassination, Mubarak stated that the country was “committed to all charters, treaties, and international obligations that Egypt has concluded.” This came as a relief to the nation
Attackers Involved in the Assassination
Among the attackers were a lieutenant, an army major and four enlisted men. Three of these were killed by the other members of the military and the rest were arrested, later identified as Islamist nationalists, associates of Muslim Brotherhood operating under Islamic Jihad.
The group leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri was identified to have ties with al-Qaeda. He was imprisoned for three years, tried and subsequently expelled from Egypt. These Islamic radicals were offended by Sadat’s peace-making efforts with Israel and accused him of apostasy and killed him on the day when he was celebrating his country’s perceived victory over Israel.
Sadat’s funeral was attended by several important political figures from United States, including the three former presidents, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. In reaction to the assassination, President Carter stated:
“There was no sign of fear about Sadat, and I think he feels God will take care of him. He has a very remarkable sense of destiny.”