Egyptian terrorist group believed to have military ties

Western diplomats suspect that a terrorist group calling itself Egypt's Revolution, which has claimed responsibility for assassination attempts against American and Israeli diplomats in Cairo over the past three years, is composed of disgruntled Egyptian military officers. Diplomats in major Western embassies here, who spoke on condition that they not be identified, say evidence is mounting that the mysterious organization is a highly professional group of ultranationalist Egyptians. This contradicts statements made by Egyptian officials that the group is composed of Libyan or Syrian agents.

Several diplomats say they now believe Egypt's Revolution consists of at least middle-level officers who are determined to destroy Egypt's Camp David peace treaty with Israel and sever its relations with the United States. They appear to be adherents of the nationalist precepts of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Diplomats base their suspicions on the targets the group has selected since it surfaced in 1984, the sophistication of its attacks, the grievances expressed in communiqu'es, and the government's seeming inability to penetrate the cell.

``The internal security apparatuses here are reasonably effective at penetration and surveillance of militant groups,'' a Western diplomat says. ``But they don't catch Egypt's Revolution, and that worries them a lot and it should.''

The group apparently is not related to the so-called Islamic Jihad militants who have carried out other assassination attempts here. Islamic Jihad and other militant Islamic groups criticize the government as corrupt and demand the society's return to fundamental principles of Islam, including imposition of strict Sharia (Islamic law).

On May 26, gunmen ambushed three US diplomats - including the head of security at the embassy compound - as they drove to work. A green Peugeot attempted to ram their car from the side and sprayed it with gunfire. One diplomat was unhurt, but two were injured by flying glass.

Egypt's Revolution claimed responsibility for the attack. The group had previously claimed responsibility for three separate attacks on Israelis, including two security officials.

An Israeli Embassy official was wounded in the first attack, in 1984. The following year an attack claimed the life of one Israeli diplomat and wounded two others. In 1986, an Israeli woman was killed and three others wounded as they left Israel's pavilion at Cairo's international trade fair.

Egypt's Revolution issued a communiqu'e after each attack stating its grievances. The statements focused on hatred of Israel and on resentment of Egypt's growing dependence on the US.

In a rambling discourse issued after the attack on the Americans, the group complained that a radar system sold to Egypt by the US failed to detect incursion into Egyptian airspace by Israeli fighter jets over the Sinai. It also praised Field Marshal Gen. Hatam Abu-Ghazallah for his closed-door statement to the Egyptian People's Assembly in which he said that Israel remained Egypt's most important enemy.

The authors of the statement claimed to be ``sons of the armed forces, part of the armed Nasserist struggle.'' They also distanced themselves from the cause of Palestinian nationalists, saying that ``the cause is no longer Palestine and the Palestinians, but the cause of Egypt and the Egyptians.''

The fact that Egypt's Revolution has not attacked Egyptians, seems to target security personnel, displays specialized knowledge of military hardware and agreements between Egypt and the US, and remains at large - all this bolsters diplomats' suspicions that the group is either composed of military personnel or receiving support from security forces.

The Egyptian government clearly has been embarrassed by the spate of attacks and by its own inability to apprehend the attackers. But the government, diplomats and others interviewed say, appears to have little to go on in its pursuit of Egypt's Revolution.

If the group's goals are to end the Camp David peace treaty and Egypt's ties with the US, it has little chance of succeeding, diplomats say. Egypt remains firmly committed to the treaty and receives more US aid than ever.

``The threat really comes when these guys, whoever they are, get tired of waiting for the government to reform and decide that, for the good of Egypt, they have to take out a few senior officials who refuse to go back to the right path,'' one diplomat says.

Former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat already paid with his life for the peace treaty he signed with Israel, these diplomats point out. In 1981, he was killed by Islamic Jihad and one of those convicted of the crime was an Egyptian military intelligence officer. This example of what an extremist organization with ties to the security forces can do remains sharp in the mind of senior Egyptian officials.

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