The official publication of Egypt's ruling party reported today that 54 policemen were killed and more than 100 were wounded in last week's clashes with Moslem fundamentalists in the southern city of Asyut.
It was the first official report that police casualties were much higher than originally reported in the fighting last Thursday following the assassination of president Anwar Sadat. Police sources had said earlier that 20 policemen were killed and 20 wounded.
The weekly newspaper Mayo of the ruling National Democratic Party said the fighting began when groups of Moslem fundamentalists, riding in 10 automobiles, launched coordinated attacks at dawn Thursday against two police stations, secuity headquarters and a police unit guarding a mosque. It said the fundamentalist gunmen were "liquidated" afterward. Police sources had said Saturday that six militants were killed and four were wounded.
The newspaper said a large number of the fundamentalists were arrested and the city was calm yesterday.
The same issue of Mayo carried an interview with the defense minister, Gen. Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala, who said the ringleader of Sadat's assassins was shot by security forces and now is in a coma following surgery.
Abu Ghazala said 1st Lt. Khaled Ahmed Islambouli had been watched by military intelligence "for suspected religious leanings" before the assassination, "but nothing was proved against him."
The newspaper published a picture of Islambouli showing him lying in a hospital bed wrapped in a white sheet with a tube in his nose.
Islambouli "has not been questioned yet because he underwent surgical operations aimed at saving his life," Abu Ghazala said. He said the leader's accomplices were a former officer discharged for religious fanaticism, a former reserve officer and a former sergeant.
The defense minister said the assassins used 100 bullets and four hand grenades they had bought from escaped criminals in southern Egypt for about $12.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian government denied last night a report that armed men had staged an attack Saturday on the home of Interior Minister Nabawi Ismail after Sadat's burial.
The report, carried by The Associated Press, which quoted "police sources," said two cars drove past Ismail's home across the Nile River in the suburb of Mohandissen and fired at it with machine guns, wounding some of his bodyguards.
Last night, Ismail told reporters at the Interior Ministry that the report was "completely a lie," and he invited reporters to visit his home to see for themselves.
Another report circulating here said police were searching for two other suspects in the assassination and had issued pictures of them. There was no immediate confirmation of this report.
If true, this would be the first indication that the authorities have revised their initial position that only four men, members of an Islamic fundamentalist group, were involved. Most witnesses said they saw six to eight persons participating in the attack.
Meanwhile, the leader of an Egyptian opposition group based abroad, retired general Saadeddin Shazli, said in an interview with the Beirut weekly Monday Morning that he had given orders to his supporters in Egypt to attack the new government.
Shazli, who heads a group called the Egyptian National Front, said he issued the order because President-designate Hosni Mubarak repeatedly had pledged in the past few days to continue the policies of his predecessor.
Shazli, who lives in Algeria, was Egypt's chief of staff during the l973 Arab-Israeli war, but his group of mostly leftist exiles is not believed to have much strength here.
Washington Post correspondent William Claiborne added from Jerusalem:
Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin reported to the Cabinet on his discussions with Mubarak in Cairo. Begin had expressed confidence in the new Egyptian leader upon return to this city Saturday night.
Deputy Prime Minister Simcha Ehrlich said Begin's trip was an "important political act for the advancement of peace" but no new gestures were needed by Israel. his discussions with Mubarak in Cairo. Begin had expressed confidence in the new Egyptian leader upon return to this city Saturday night.
Deputy Prime Minister Simcha Ehrlich said Begin's trip was an "important political act for the advancement of peace" but no new gestures were needed by Israel.