Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak declared today that the assassins of Anwar Sadat intended to wipe out the entire leadership and to declare a "Khomeini-style revolution" within one year.
"Obviously, it was their plan to assassinate the entire leadership, and this means that such a physical liquidation could not have spared anyone, including the opposition," Mubarak said, in a sharp departure from the initial version of the Oct. 6 attack.
In a two-part interview with the semiofficial Al Ahram newspaper, Mubarak said the sweep of the alleged plot "is not strange" because their model was Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran's Islamic revolution, who "has not spared anyone."
Mubarak was apparently referring to the hundreds of executions by the Iranian government of its opponents over the past year.
Initially, Mubarak and other top Egyptian leaders insisted the attack on president Sadat, who died in a hail of gunfire while reviewing a military parade, was not a "coup" and was aimed only against him. They also said the four gunmen had acted alone and had no connection with any other group.
Now, however, Mubarek has come forth with a more ominous version after prolonged military interrogation of the four captured assassins and the arrests -- now put by police at 356 -- of other Moslem fanatics alleged to belong to a secret terrorist organization behind the assassination plot.
In his interview with Al Ahram, Mubarak said the plotters had a three-stage coup in mind : military training of recruits and purchase of weapons; assassinations to instigate chaos throughout the country, and finally seizure of all strategic points in Cairo and other major cities and declaration of an Islamic revolution.
Egyptian authorities earlier identified the leader as Aboud Abdel Latif Zomor, a former Army lieutenant colonel who reportedly had close ties to Lt. Khaled Ahmed Shawki Islambouli, the artillery officer who led the assault on Sadat. Both were captured and have been under interrogation.
Mubarak said Zomor had confessed to organizing the plot. The president also said there was no evidence of any link between the terrorists and the armed forces, although he did say they had succeeded in recruiting a "very low number" of officers. He gave no figures.
The terrorists are reported to have recruited militants from several other Moslem fundamentalist organizations. The government has accused the group of organizing the two-day insurrection in Asyut two days after Sadat's death. At least 54 persons, mostly policemen, were reported killed and more than 100 others injured.
Mubarak said the Asyut violence and the assassination of Sadat were part of the same plot to seize power after killing "all the political, military and religious leadership."
The weekly Al Mossawar said the Moslem terrorist group had planned a series of political assassinations over a two-year period but Sadat's massive crackdown on religious extremists in early September forced them to step up their plans. It said the assassins would have killed the Egyptian leaders assembled with Sadat to review the military parade had they not run out of ammunition.
The terrorist group also planned attacks on police stations and other strategic installations across the country, similar to the Asyut insurrection, according to government sources.
The new official version of a plot to kill the entire leadership seems more in accord with eyewitness accounts of the attack, which said the assassins shot indiscriminately into a pile of chairs under which Sadat and others sought protection after the shooting started.
Eight other persons were killed, including three sitting in the front row of the reviewing stand with Sadat. Then-vice president Mubarak and Defense Minister Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala, who were on either side of Sadat, escaped serious injury.
The new version does not fully explain why the only other insurrection or attempt to take over a town was that in Asyut. Nor is it clear why the alleged leader of the conspiracy, Zomor, made no effort to publicize the objectives of the assassination or to rally public support in the first hours, or even days, after the attack on Sadat.
Government sources say Zomor had written out a statement which was seized along with other documents when he, his brother Tarik and three others were arrested in a shootout with police near the pyramids five days after Sadat's assassination.
The weekly Mossawar said the plotters had orginally planned to seize control of the main radio and television building. Presumably they would have made their declaration from there had they succeeded. But so far as is known, no attempt was ever made to attack the building, which has been kept under heavy guard since the assassination.
Mubarak said the plotters were thrown off guard first by the September crackdown and then by unexpected heavy losses in Asyut, where he said 22 of their members or supporters were killed or wounded. Then, he added, police were able to move swiftly to break up a network in other cities and towns, thereby aborting the plan for nationwide insurrection.
The president also said he was expecting shortly three reports regarding what appears to have been a security breakdown within the armed forces. One concerns how the four assassins, three of whom were civilians, had infiltrated the military parade. The second, how the ammunition and weapons were smuggled to the artillery unit led by Islambouli, and the third, whether the presidential guards were negligent.