DHAHRAN, SAUDI ARABIA, OCT. 28 -- Religious extremists suspected of assassinating Egypt's parliamentary speaker this month hit the wrong man and had intended to kill the interior minister to avenge the slaying of a fundamentalist Islamic figure, Egyptian officials said today.

Parliamentary speaker Rifaat Mahgoub, a close political ally of President Hosni Mubarak, was gunned down with five other people on Oct. 12 near Cairo's Semiramis Intercontinental Hotel. According to the officials, the assassins had intended to kill Interior Minister Muhammad Abdel Halim Moussa, who had been expected to drive past the location of the machine-gun attack seven minutes later.

After the Mahgoub slaying, many Egyptians suspected Iraq of playing a role in the assassination to retaliate for Egypt's high-profile leadership of the Arab coalition condemning Baghdad's invasion of Kuwait. The government's assertion that religious extremists were actually seeking to kill Moussa for domestic reasons would appear to shift direct blame away from Iraq, but an Interior Ministry statement today said the killers had received "foreign" aid.

The assertion that the assassins killed the wrong man initially appeared in today's edition of the semi-official al-Ahram newspaper, attributed to Interior Ministry sources. Also today, a shootout in Cairo between police and members of an extremist Islamic group left two Moslems dead.

Officials also reported today that police had arrested six alleged extremists in connection with Mahgoub's slaying, this following the detention last week of four other suspects who were said to have confessed to involvement in the murder.

Presidential spokesman Mohamed Abdel Moneim said in a phone interview today that police now believe the real target of the attack that killed Mahgoub was Moussa. "They made a mistake," Moneim said of the assassins.

Moneim said the four suspects already in custody "confessed they wanted to avenge the killing of their leader," referring to the unexplained death of Ala Mohideen, a leader in the Islamic Jihad organization whose bullet-riddled body was found on a Cairo street in August. Islamic Jihad is an underground network of religious extremists in various factions seeking to overthrow Egypt's secular government and its replacement with a strict Islamic regime.

According to al-Ahram, the four suspects confessed after being arrested last week with eight other Islamic Jihad members. The four told police they had been involved in the bloody attack on Mahgoub's limousine and admitted they had meant to kill Moussa.

Moneim said, however, that an investigation would be conducted to determine what foreigners might have helped the Islamic Jihad faction that carried out the murder. "There is an Arab connection {to the assassins}, but we don't know who," said Moneim. "It's going to be announced after a full investigation."

The slaying of Mahgoub followed accusations by Mubarak that Iraq had sent saboteurs to cause chaos in Egypt because of its decision to contribute troops to the multinational force aligned against Iraq.

None of those arrested has yet been charged in Mahgoub's slaying.