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Nobel Prize-Winning Author Stabbed in Cairo

October 15, 1994|Associated Press

CAIRO — A man with a knife stabbed Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz in the neck outside the writer's Cairo home Friday, authorities said.

An Interior Ministry statement said Mahfouz, 83, was in "safe condition" at a hospital, where he underwent surgery. Police sources labeled the attack a terrorist incident--a term commonly used for attacks by Islamic militants.

Mahfouz won the 1988 Nobel Prize for literature and has been criticized by Muslim radicals for his writings. The statement from the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of Egypt's police, gave no hint of a motive.

The attacker emerged from a white Mercedes-Benz and stabbed Mahfouz several times in the neck as he was leaving his home in the neighborhood of Agouza shortly before 6 p.m., the police sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity.

The man then fled in the car, which bore license plates from Suez in northern Egypt, the sources said.

The novelist, who is diabetic and almost blind, believed that the man wanted to shake his hand. Mahfouz's driver called police after the attack, the ministry statement said.

Mahfouz was leaving his home to attend a weekly coffeehouse gathering with other Egyptian literary figures.

Mahfouz's allegorical "Children of Gebelawi," a 1959 political novel depicting religious figures such as Jesus Christ and the Prophet Mohammed, landed him in trouble with Egypt's religious Establishment. It remains banned in Egypt.

Radical Egyptian Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, implicated in the New York Trade Center bombing, said Mahfouz, a Muslim, deserved to die for "Children of Gebelawi." Some critics had long condemned Mahfouz for supporting Egypt's peace with Israel.

At his age, Mahfouz said in a recent interview, a death threat is not really that frightening. "I might receive a threat on Sunday and die on Monday of natural causes," he said.

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