Egypt starts trial of assassin group

Eighteen members of an underground cell that killed two Israeli diplomats and fired at United States officials here went on trial yesterday amid heavy security. The group called Egypt's Revolution was committed to undermining Cairo's policy of peace with Israel and its close ties with the United States.

``Our cause is to rid Egypt of the Mossad members, and CIA members, and anybody who is against Egypt,'' said Mahmoud Nur El-Din, the white-haired leader of the group who was wearing a red rose in his lapel that he said symbolized revolution throughout the world. Mossad is Israel's intelligence agency.

Some observers had doubted the case would ever get to court, arguing that Israel's brutal crackdown of the Palestinian uprising would galvanize widespread resentment of the government's continued relations with the Jewish state.

The sessions could answer several questions: how the group picked its target, whether the members were indeed supporters of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, what role Nasser's son Khaled played, and whether the US Embassy had a role in breaking the case.

Egypt's Revolution began operating in 1984 with an attack that wounded an Israeli security guard in Cairo.

The following year, the group assassinated an attach'e at the Israeli embassy. In 1986, they killed an Israeli woman working at Israel's Cairo mission.

The group then bungled a late 1987 attack on US Embassy security guards riding to work.

Four months later, Egyptian police swooped down on the group. Khaled Abdel Nasser, allegedly the group's financier, had already escaped, apparently on a tip from a friend inside government circles.

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