Egypt's new leader Hosni Mubarak is determined to uproot the Islamic militancy that could have turned Egypt into an Islamic republic the day President Anwar Sadat was assassinated.
As details of the assassination plot unravel, the hunt for accomplices of the Sadat's assassins throughout Egypt brought the number of suspects arrested to more than 500, sources close to the Ministry of Interior told the Monitor.
Several arms caches containing massive quantities of automatic rifles, submachine guns, grenades, and ammunition were discovered in Cairo suburbs and upper Egyptian cities during the last few days.
As a result, the investigation, which is to be followed by public trials, now includes Army officers and members of the presidential guard and military intelligence as well as state security officials.
Other government employees appear to be involved as well, such as radio and TV technicians, including an announcer who had prepared to evacuate the building and broadcast a taped statement on the overthrow of the regime and the beginning of the Islamic era.
Aware of the magnitude of the operation, which at first was believed to be aimed solely at killing Mr. Sadat, President Mubarak vowed there will be no leniency for those who attacked the dias, where Mr. Sadat and ranking officials were seated to watch the military parade Oct. 6.
Two grenades that experts say could easily have turned the dias into rubble and killed all those present were thrown by the assassins. But they did not explode.
This, the investigation showed, was the third in a series of plots that were thwarted by police last month.
The first was to take place in El Mansura Sept. 28 while Sadat toured by train, often waving to crowds from an open window. The second attempt was supposed to be carried out Sept. 29, while the late president delivered a speech at the conclusion of the ruling National Democratic Party's annual congress.
The Monitor learned that the questioning currently under way is focusing on:
* The source of the extremists' arms and ammunition. It is believed most of the Soviet-made weapons found were stolen from the Army. But well-informed sources said the possibility of foreign suppliers cannot be ruled out.
* The source of large sums of local and foreign currency seized by police in house searches. There is no indication yet that a foreign country was involved, the sources said.
* The existence of links between the members of the group charged with the killing and major known fundamentalist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Takfir Wal Hijra. The assumption that this was a separate splinter group has been discarded, and the extent of coordination and actual participation by different group members remains to be determined.
* The size of the group directly associated with the asassination and the core members who recruited others and trained them in the use of arms.
* The degree of involvement of various Army units in the assassination.
Those in charge of security the day of the parade are now being questioned as to how Lt. Khalid Istanbuli could bring in three outsiders, dress them in Army uniforms, and provide them with arms. They are also being asked why security agents did not exchange fire with Sadat's assassins.
The questioning also revolves around the mastermind of the operation, Lt. Aboud Zoumr, and his firsthand prior knowledge of military intelligenece.
Meanwhile extraordinary measures have been taken by the government to avert any recurrence of attacks on police stations or government offices. Such attacks cannot be ruled out, they say, since the first such incident took place in the upper Egyptian city of Asyut a few days after the asassination, resulting in heavy police casualties.
With some ringleaders still at large it is feared other incidents could become more aggressive in reaction to hardened security.