7. The Peace Treaty That Killed an Egyptian President
The Cold War’s cycle of Arab-Israeli wars was broken in 1979, when Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel. It won Sadat a Nobel Prize, but many of his countrymen and fellow Arabs saw it as a sellout. Their numbers included Omar Abdel Rahman, the “Blind Sheik” later convicted for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, who issued a fatwa against Sadat. On October 6th, 1981, Sadat, surrounded by high ranking officials and dignitaries, took his place at a reviewing stand to watch a military parade, that was broadcast on live TV.
Jets zoomed overhead, while army trucks towing artillery paraded by. One of them contained a lieutenant Khalid Islambouli, who had arrived that morning with some substitute soldiers for ones whom he claimed had fallen ill. Islambouli was a secret member of Islamic Jihad – radicals whose ranks included Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s future second in command. When Islambouli’s truck passed by Sadat, he disembarked and approached the review stand. Sadat thought it was part of the parade, and saluted Islambouli, who responded by lobbing three grenades. Only one grenade exploded, but as it went off, Islambouli’s accomplices rushed the review stand and opened fire, killing Sadat and several others on live TV.