(Autumn 1995) The recent assassination attempt against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa highlights once again the continuing Iranian-sponsored terrorism and Islamic extremist meddling taking place in central and northern Africa. The identities of the assassins have yet to be determined, although several of them were described as "of Arab origin." Of particular interest in this regard is a report out of Scandinavia that a group belonging to the Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization directly associated with the current Iranian regime, has claimed responsibility for this attack. According to this report, the leader of the attack sought asylum in Norway, where he admitted his group has been working with a Jihad leader who lives in Denmark and who is under a death sentence in Egypt for the assassination of President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has also charged that Mubarak's assailants were "members of an Islamic group which has the backing of Iran."
Since his return from Ethiopia, Mubarak has not picked up on this particular claim, however. Rather, he has limited his public statements to expressing a conviction that the assassination attempt had been planned in Sudan. Sudan's Islamic government, which came to power through a coup in 1989, has frequently been accused, usually based on good evidence, of assisting Islamic extremists in Egypt in their attempts to overthrow Mubarak's secular government and replace it with a doctrinaire Islamic regime along the lines of those in Khartoum and Tehran. Mubarak said that the house the gunmen used to support their attack was rented by Sudanese and that the gunmen very likely entered Ethiopia from Sudan. Arrests in Cairo last May provided detailed information on training centers for Egyptian terrorists in Sudan, as well as on funding received from abroad and routes used by terrorist elements to slip into Egypt illegally. Former Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiri, now living in exile in Egypt, also stated that the Sudanese were behind the attempt on Mubarak's life. Egyptian Information Minister Safwat al-Sherif remarked that his country is threatened by several extremist groups "financed, trained and supported by foreign forces and by certain countries."
The National Islamic Front, with Hassan al-Turabi as its leader, is generally believed to be the real power in Sudan. Turabi, who has clear ties to the Iranian government, wields enormous influence in Sudan and is accountable to no one. Although he has no official position in the current military regime, he has installed his own people at every level of government. He has thus assured that his own vision of a repressive Islamic society will be the one that predominates in the country. Opposition within the universities and labor unions has been rooted out, and many opponents are now in exile. Islamic "sharia" law has become the basis for all civil and criminal legal procedures. Once a friendly country, Sudan has become dreary and militantly oppressive.
There is clear evidence that Sudan, under the sponsorship and direction of Iran, is now attempting to export this extremist and repressive version of Islamic principles to other countries in Africa as well. A Sudanese opposition leader, Fatimah Ahmad Ibrahim, revealed recently that al-Turabi's National Islamic Front has been providing money and materials to the Algerian militant fundamentalist movement. She spoke of Sudanese terrorists fighting alongside Algerians and also identified training camps in Sudan that train Algerian terrorists. The camps train Moroccans and Tunisians as well, sending the fighters and their weapons back to their home countries, sometimes via Libya. Additionally, a United Nations team looking into proliferation of light weapons in Africa reported only a few months ago that Sudan, Iran and Libya are all providing weapons to extremist groups in sub-Saharan Africa, in the name of "promoting Islam."
Sudanese opposition sources in Khartoum also made public a highly secret agreement reached between Iran and Sudan last April, when Iran's speaker of the Majlis, Ali Natiq Nuri, led a large delegation of political and military experts at an Islamic conference there. The agreement, reached immediately after the conference, amounts to a new strategic and military alliance between the two countries. The Iranian fleet will be allowed to move freely in Sudanese waters and will have use of port facilities at Port Sudan and Suakin. There will also be a joint intelligence committee for the exchange of information and expertise. Under this agreement, Sudan has been given the funds and responsibility for infiltrating its neighboring states, given its strategic location and its long experience in fostering and supporting terrorism. Sudan adjoins eight other African countries and has a long border along the Red Sea, which facilitates gun-running and other infiltration activities.
Clearly, the situation is getting serious. Iran has always had certain political and religious objectives in the region -- in particular the upsetting of the Middle East peace process -- but it refrained in the past from drastic actions that could directly affect major negotiations. The attempted assassination of President Mubarak, however, was a drastic action indeed, with results that would have reverberated beyond Egypt's borders. Does this signal a new and even more aggressive policy of the Mullahs in Tehran to achieve their ends?
Responsible governments around the world would be wise to make certain their security services are well prepared and to consider putting additional economic and political pressure on Iran to persuade it to act as a responsible and respectable nation.