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Details of Egyptian Security Scandal Emerging

November 26, 1987|MICHAEL ROSS | Times Staff Writer

CAIRO — Despite a government order banning the publication of any information about the case, details are beginning to emerge about a highly sensitive and politically embarrassing security scandal involving attacks against American and Israeli officials in Cairo over the last three years.

The case concerns a left-wing group called Egypt's Revolution, which counts several senior Egyptian military officers and a former intelligence operative among its members and is believed to have received financing from Libya.

The fact that military officers, who are said to include three colonels, were involved in the group is a major embarrassment to the government of President Hosni Mubarak, Western diplomats said.

However, on Wednesday, Ahmed Bahaa Din, a respected columnist with the semiofficial newspaper Al Ahram, also accused Khaled Nasser, the eldest son of the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, of being involved in the group.

"He is involved in it and it is very embarrassing that he is the son of Nasser," Bahaa Din told a meeting of the Foreign Press Assn. in Cairo.

Given the news blackout imposed on the investigation by Egyptian authorities, the nature of the younger Nasser's alleged connection to Egypt's Revolution is still unclear. However, rumors of his suspected involvement, in some unspecified way, have been rife in Cairo's diplomatic corps for several weeks.

According to Western diplomats familiar with the case, most of these reports suggested that Nasser, an instructor of engineering at Cairo University, was not an active participant in the group, but was on friendly terms with several of its members and met with them frequently.

Egyptian security officials have refused to comment on the case. And, threatened with prosecution if they violate censorship rules, even Egypt's robust opposition press has only alluded to the affair, saying that Nasser's "testimony" was being sought by security authorities in connection with an "important case recently uncovered."

Left the Country

Nasser was out of the country and unavailable for comment. Diplomatic and other sources said he left Egypt in September, the same month in which 16 members of Egypt's Revolution were arrested.

He was first reported to have gone to London but is now rumored to be in Yugoslavia.

Egypt's Revolution first surfaced in the summer of 1984, when it claimed responsibility for the shooting of an Israeli Embassy official. Over the next two years, it was involved in two more attacks against Israeli Embassy personnel that resulted in two deaths and several injuries.

The victims, in each case, were identified by the Israeli Embassy at the time as either "administrative attaches" or secretaries. However, several Western diplomatic sources, citing intelligence information, said the targets were in fact intelligence agents operating under the cover of diplomatic assignments at the Israeli Embassy--as Egypt's Revolution asserted in its subsequent communiques.

The group's most recent attack occurred May 26, when two of its members opened fire on a car carrying Dennis Williams, head of security at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, and two other security officers to work. Williams and his deputy, John Hucke, were both slightly injured in the attack.

The professional nature of all four attacks, coupled with the fact that the victims were security or intelligence officers whose true identities were not generally known, led to speculation that members of Egypt's Revolution included senior military men with access to sensitive information.

This, according to the diplomats, was confirmed when 16 of the group's members were arrested in September. Although the identities of the three colonels said to be involved have not been announced, one name has been leaked to the press. He is Nour Eldine Sayyed, a former military intelligence officer who served on the staff of the Egyptian Embassy in London until 1984, when he disappeared after rumors in security circles of his involvement in the death of a dissident Egyptian politician.

According to Bahaa Din, the case was broken when Sayyed's brother went to the U.S. Embassy with information about the group. After questioning Sayyed's brother "extensively," the Americans presented the information to the Egyptians, other well-informed sources said. Nasser was still in the country at this time but left soon after the information was passed along to the Egyptians, these sources added.

Libya Financing Rumored

Given the murky implications of the affair, which touches on other, more sensitive intelligence activities, Egyptian officials have refused to even admit in public that Egypt's Revolution exists. However, speaking privately, security sources said they believe the group is financed by Libya, which has been linked to a number of subversive activities in Egypt.

Earlier this week, authorities announced that charges had been filed against 15 members of another Nasserite group that, with Libyan financing and training, planned to assassinate the Israeli ambassador to Egypt, among other terrorist acts.

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