Assassination Attempt on Gamal Abdel al-Nasser in 1954
Nasser became the President of Egypt in 1956, but two years earlier, he remarkably survived an assassination attempt where the gunman somehow missed with eight shots. On October 26, 1954, he was speaking to a crowd in Alexandria, Egypt when suddenly, a number of bullets whizzed by him. The gunman, Mahmoud Abd al-Latif, was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and was seemingly a terrible shot.
Some members of the audience were more than a little skeptical about the entire affair. First of all, al-Latif was relatively close to Nasser and should have been able to hit him at least once with eight bullets. The other possible red flag was Nasser’s incredibly cool reaction to the assassination attempt. Instead of fleeing as one might expect, he didn’t flinch and interrupted his speech to exclaim: “Let them kill Nasser. What is Nasser but one among many? My fellow countrymen, stay where you are. I am not dead, I am alive and even if I die all of you is Gamal Abd al-Nasser.”
The Muslim Brotherhood hated Nasser because he extended the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty for another five years a few weeks before the attempted assassination. According to the Treaty, Britain was allowed to re-enter Egypt if Turkey was attacked. The Brotherhood accused Nasser of selling out Egypt to the West. Notions that it was staged were somewhat dispelled when al-Latif and five other leaders of the Brotherhood were hanged on December 9, 1954. Nasser used the assassination attempt as an excuse to round up Communists and prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood. By the end of the year, over 200 Communists and 500 members of the Brotherhood were behind bars.
Some historians believe that if the attempt was successful, there would have been no Arab-Israeli Wars from 1956 onward. One of his lieutenants would have stepped in and seized power in the event of Nasser’s death, but it is unlikely that they would have pursued conflict quite as aggressively as he did. Even the last Arab-Israeli war, the horrific Yom Kippur War in 1973, which was started by Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, was a direct response to the embarrassment suffered by Egypt in 1967.