US embassy cable - 88CAIRO17073

ESCAPE OF THREE ISLAMIC JIHAD MEMBERS FROM PRISON

Identifier: 88CAIRO17073
Wikileaks: View 88CAIRO17073 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 1988-07-18 16:20:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: PTER PINR PINS EG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 181620Z JUL 88
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7153
INFO AMCONSUL ALEXANDRIA
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
AMEMBASSY AMMAN
AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
AMEMBASSY LONDON
AMEMBASSY PARIS
USCINCCENT MACDILL AFB FL
DIA WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 17073 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PTER, PINR, PINS, EG 
SUBJECT:  ESCAPE OF THREE ISLAMIC JIHAD MEMBERS FROM 
PRISON 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY.  THREE MEMBERS OF THE ISLAMIC JIHAD 
ORGANIZATION JAILED SINCE THE AFTERMATH OF THE OCTOBER 
1981 ASSASSINATION OF SADAT ESCAPED JULY 17.  THEY 
OVERPOWERED TWO GUARDS, STOLE THEIR WEAPONS AND ESCAPED 
ON MAKESHIFT ROPE LADDERS, SPARKING RUMORS THAT THEY 
HAD BOTH INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL ASSISTANCE.  THOSE 
SUSPECTED OF LINKS WITH ISLAMIC JIHAD ARE BEING ROUNDED 
UP FOR QUESTIONING, AND AN ENRAGED ZAKI BADR HAS SACKED 
A NUMBER OF HIS OFFICERS.  HOWEVER, WE ARE ALSO HEARING 
GRUMBLINGS THAT THE INTERIOR MINISTER'S POLICY OF 
SUMMARY TRANSFERS AND OTHER PUNISHMENTS FOR MINOR 
INFRACTIONS HAS CREATED AN ATMOSPHERE OF TIMIDITY IN 
WHICH OPERATIONS SUCH AS THIS ESCAPE ARE EASIER TO PULL 
OFF.  END SUMMARY. 
 
 
2.  (U) THREE MEMBERS OF THE ISLAMIC JIHAD ORGANIZATION 
WHO WERE IMPLICATED IN THE ASSASSINATION OF ANWAR SADAT 
IN OCTOBER 1981 ESCAPED FROM THE MAXIMUM SECURITY AL 
TORAH PRISON IN CAIRO BEFORE DAWN JULY 17.  SECURITY 
FORCES SNARLED RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC IN A FRUITLESS SEARCH 
FOR THE ESCAPEES, BUT REFRAINED FROM ANY ANNOUNCEMENT 
OF THE PRISON BREAK UNTIL LATE AFTERNOON.  A BRIEF 
INTERIOR MINISTRY STATEMENT SAID THAT A SUBSTANTIAL 
REWARD WOULD BE OFFERED FOR THEIR CAPTURE.  THE THREE 
WERE IDENTIFIED AS KHAMIS MOHAMMED MOSSLAM, MOHAMMED 
MAHMOUD EL-ASWANI, AND ESAMEDDIN EL-KAMARI. 
 
 
3.  (C) AN EMBASSY SOURCE WITH EXCELLENT CONTACTS IN 
THE SECURITY FORCES SAID THAT THE THREE APPARENTLY 
ESCAPED ABOUT FIVE AM ON JULY 17, BUT THEIR ABSENCE WAS 
NOT DETECTED UNTIL A ROLL CALL SEVERAL HOURS LATER. 
THE THREE WERE HOUSED IN A SINGLE CELL FROM WHICH THEY 
ESCAPED BY PULLING OUT AN AIR VENT AND THEN 
OVERPOWERING A GUARD.  THEY TOOK HIS WEAPON AND MADE 
THEIR WAY TO THE PRISON WALLS WHERE THEY OVERCAME A 
SECOND GUARD IN THE WATCHTOWER AND THEN WENT OVER THE 
WALL USING IMPROVISED ROPE LADDERS.  CONTRARY TO PRESS 
REPORTS, OUR SOURCE SAID THAT NO SHOTS WERE FIRED, BUT 
BOTH GUARDS WERE BADLY INJURED.  THE ESCAPEES MADE OFF 
WITH THEIR SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS AND SOME 200 ROUNDS 
OF AMMUNITION. 
 
 
4.  (C) OUR SOURCE DESCRIBED EL-KAMARI AS BY FAR THE 
MOST DANGEROUS OF THE THREE.  HE IS A FORMER MAJOR IN 
THE ARMY'S ELITE RANGER BATTALION AND HAS A REPUTATION 
FOR INTELLIGENCE AND RUTHLESSNESS.  HE IS BELIEVED TO 
BE THE DEPUTY CHIEF OF ISLAMIC JIHAD'S "MILITARY" WING, 
BUT SINCE THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE LINKING HIM DIRECTLY 
WITH SADAT'S ASSASSINATION, HE WAS NOT GIVEN THE DEATH 
PENALTY.  MOSSLAM AND ASWANI WERE CHARGED WITH THE 
MURDER OF A POLICE OFFICER IN 1981.  OUR SOURCE SAID 
THE FACT THAT THEY HAD BEEN HANDLED VERY HARSHLY BY 
AUTHORITIES AFTER THEIR ARREST HAS CONVINCED SECURITY 
FORCES THAT IT WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE TO RECAPTURE THEM 
WITHOUT A BATTLE.  IN AN EFFORT TO TRACE THE ESCAPEES, 
A ROUNDUP OF INDIVIDUALS KNOWN OR BELIEVED TO HAVE 
CONTACTS/SYMPATHIES WITH ISLAMIC JIHAD HAS ALREADY 
BEGUN, AS HAS THE INTERROGATION OF A JIHADIST STILL IN 
AL TORAH PRISON. 
 
 
5.  (C) THE ESCAPE OF THE THREE WILL BE A MAJOR 
EMBARRASSMENT TO INTERIOR MINISTER ZAKI BADR AFTER A 
PUBLICIZED STRING OF SUCCESSES AGAINST TERRORIST 
GROUPS.  HE MOVED IMMEDIATELY TO CASHIER THE HEAD OF 
THE PRISONS DEPARTMENT, AND OUR SECURITY SOURCE SAID 
THAT OVER TWO DOZEN OTHER OFFICERS HAVE BEEN CALLED IN 
FOR QUESTIONING OR SUSPENDED FROM THEIR DUTIES.  THE 
APPARENT EASE OF THE ESCAPE HAS ALREADY SPARKED RUMORS 
THAT THE THREE HAD ASSISTANCE FROM BOTH INSIDE AND 
OUTSIDE THE PRISON.  OUR SOURCE ADDED THAT MANY OF HIS 
CONTACTS, ALREADY DEMORALIZED BY THE INTERIOR 
MINISTER'S AUTOCRATIC AND INTIMIDATING WAYS, ARE 
GRUMBLING THAT HIS POLICIES OF PUNISHMENT AND SUMMARY 
TRANSFER FOR THE SLIGHTEST INFRACTION HAVE CREATED AN 
ATMOSPHERE OF TIMIDITY AND DISCONTINUITY THAT HAMPERS 
THE EFFICIENCY OF THE SECURITY SERVICES. 
 
 
WISNER 

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