Mubarak narrowly escapes gunmen

Assassination attempt: fundamentalists suspected as four die when cavalcade is fired on before OAU summit in Addis Ababa

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt narrowly escaped assassination in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, yesterday when gunmen opened fire on his motorcade. Two of his bodyguards, together with two of the would-be assassins - believed by Egyptian security police to be Egyptian fundamentalists based in Sudan - were killed.

At least one bullet struck the window of Mr Mubarak's armoured limousine. Back in Cairo, with his arms round the shoulders of his two sons, Alaa and Gamal, the President credited his survival to God, revealed that he saw one of his would-be assassins shooting at him from a rooftop and suggested acidly that men loyal to Hassan Turabi, the Islamic spiritual leader in Sudan, were responsible.

The Sudanese government later denied involvement, but at an emergency cabinet meeting last night, the Egyptian government said it was determined "to crush [extremists] who work abroad and are financed, trained and supported by foreign forces and by certain countries." Information Minister Safouat al-Cherif was not at pains to hide any allusion to Sudan.

It was the third assassination attempt on President Mubarak in 22 months, but the first in which the would-be killers were not caught before they made their attack. The motorcade carrying Mr Mubarak, who had just flown into Addis Ababa for the opening of an Organisation of African Unity summit, had reached a point opposite the Palestine Embassy when two vehicles blocked its path and gunmen opened fire on the President's car. As Ethiopian and Egyptian police officers fired back, Mr Mubarak's driver was seen to wrench his car across the road and drive straight back to the airport, where the President immediately took his plane back to Cairo.

"I saw those who shot at me," he said on his return. "I really was not shaken ... the man I saw firing was not Ethiopian." He later said that the gunmen were "not black", apparently excluding the possibility that they were Sudanese. A number of Egyptian fundamentalist groups, however, regularly visit Sudan and are known to live in camps east of Khartoum, scarcely 200 miles from the Ethiopian border.

Shortly after the attack, police in Addis Ababa stormed an apartment in an alleyway beside the Palestine Embassy and found rocket-propelled grenade launchers, guns and ammunition. The house had been rented four days earlier by Egyptians.

No doubt mindful of the silence which followed the assassination of Anwar Sadat in October 1981 - when government officials claimed that the president was still alive - Mr Mubarak called Egyptian journalists and photographers to meet his Boeing on its return to Cairo airport. The 67-year-old President, in an immaculately pressed dark grey suit, waved with both hands as he walked down the ramp from the aircraft, followed by his sons, who had gone on board to greet him, one of them weeping. "Whatever happens, Egypt will not be shaken and we will not give up fighting terrorism," he said as squads of paramilitary police surrounded him.

"I am a believer and I have always thought that God is protecting me."

In truth, Mr Mubarak must have been a very shaken man. He was almost cut down by the bullets which killed Sadat, and the second of the three recent attempts on his life was only discovered at short notice when intelligence officers at a military air base learned that senior army officers had placed explosives in the ramp down which he was to descend from his aircraft.

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