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Suleiman KHATER





Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Egyptian border policeman
Number of victims: 7
Date of murder: October 5, 1985
Date of arrest: Same day (surrenders)
Date of birth: 1961
Victim profile: Israeli tourists (including 4 children)
Method of murder: Shooting
Location: Ras Barqa, Southern Sinai, Egypt
Status: Sentenced to a life term at hard labor by a Military Tribunal on December 28, 1985. Found hanged in his cell on January 8, 1986

Suleiman Mohammed Abdul-Hamid Khater (Arabic سليمان خاطر, also transcribed Soleiman, Sulaiman, Sulayman, Suliman etc.) was an Egyptian soldier (a member of the Central Security Forces) who on October 5, 1985 opened fire on Israeli tourists who apparently ignored orders to move away from a military post in the Sinai, killing seven.

While Israel demanded that he be harshly punished, a number of voices in the Arab world expressed support for his actions, including the parliament of Kuwait.

Khater was found hanged in his jail cell in January 1986, and many suspected that the Egyptian authorities staged a "suicide" as a convenient escape from their political dilemma. After his death, the Iranian government of Ayatollah Khomeini issued a stamp "In honour of the martyrdom of Sulayman Khater, Hero of Sinai", and named a street in Tehran for him.

His life

Suleiman Khater was born on 1961 in the village of Ekyad (sometimes transcribed Akyad) in Al-Sharkeyya governorate, Egypt, the youngest of three boys and two girls born to a simple family.

During his childhood, Suleiman witnessed the Israeli strike on Bahr el-Bakar Primary School on April 8 1970, when the Israeli Air Force bombarded the school using the American Phantom airplanes and killing 30 children. Maybe these scenes were of a strong impact on Suleiman who was 9 years old back then, as said by his sister who told Al-Jazeera that Suleiman “rash out to see what’s happening and came back with a shock of what he saw”. Suleiman joined the obligatory military service as a soldier in the Central Security Forces.

Ras Barqa incident

According to the Egyptian daily Al-Wafd, on October 5, 1985, and during Khater’s usual shift in the area of Ras Barqa (or Ras Barga) in Southern Sinai, he saw a group of Israeli tourists, 12, trying to climb the cliff where his booth was located. He warned them saying “Stop no passing” in English, but they didn’t listen to him and kept going towards the military booth. Hard it is to find out what they were up to in the darkness, he fired warning shots in the air. Getting no response or reaction form the 12 Israelis, Suleiman shot at them and left 7 of them dead, including 4 children. Although that was the orders that Suleiman followed, he was charged in front of a military tribunal. During the investigations, Suleiman said that these Israelis snake into the Egyptian lands without a permission and refused to obey or listen to his warnings.

Suleiman's Tribunal

Suleiman turned in himself after the incidents, and a presidential decree was issued to let Suleiman be introduced to a military tribunal, although he was a member of police forces and not a military soldier. Egypt's most promoinent lawyers stood in line to passionately defend Khater. Suleiman’s lawyer requested that he’ll be introduced to a civil court but his request has been refused.

The governmental journals said he was crazy, and the dissident journals demanded that he will be introduced to a civil court, not a military one. So many appeals, conferences, and statements demanded the same. The military tribunal sentenced Khater a life term at hard labor on December 28, 1985, and he was deported to the Military Prison in Nasr City, Cairo. Right after which, Khater was transferred to the prison hospital. On his 9th day in prison, and exactly on January 7, 1986, it was announced that Suleiman has committed suicide.

Investigations with Suleiman

In the investigation record, Khater tells his story that on October 5, 1985, “I was on a cliff high from the ground, serving during my shift, and I saw a group of foreigners; women, children and apparently a man wearing swimsuits. I said: “Stop no passing” in English, they didn’t obey. And the passed by the booth. My mission there was to guard the borders, to guard the equipment that no one, Egyptian or foreigner, should see. This is a no entry area and no one should be there, and these are my orders. It isn’t the case that I let pass any girl who strips in front of me”. (Pointing to another accident where an Israeli woman stripped in front of an Egyptian soldier in Sinai to get the CSF equipment frequency from him) “Why did you order us not to let anyone pass then? If you wanted us to let them then just tell us so”. As the investigator asked him, “why do you insist on filling your weapon, Suleiman?” Khater answered, “because whoever loves his country takes care of his weapon, and vice versa.. that’s pretty axiomatic”. He said, “because I love it as much as I love Egypt” when he was asked “how do you reason that you memorize your weapon’s number?"

Egypt my Mother

In a letter he wrote in prison he mentioned that when one of the prisoners asked him “what are you thinking about?” he answered “I’m thinking of Egypt my mother. I’m thinking she’s a good woman like my mother who works really hard, and I’m telling her: “I’m just one of your loving sons, of your soil, and my blood is of your Nile”, and when I cry, I picture her setting right next to me, just like my mother at home who used to hold me to her chest and say: “Don’t cry Suleiman, you did exactly what I was expecting from you””. At the court, Suleiman said: “I’m not afraid of death, it’s fate. What I’m afraid of is that the sentence I’m going to receive might affect my colleagues badly and kill their patriotism”. And when he was sentenced he said: “This sentence is a sentence against Egypt, because an Egyptian soldier did his duty”, and talked to the guards saying: “Go guard Sinai, Suleiman doesn’t need any guards".

The Mystery of his “Suicide"

Many Egyptians cast doubt on the government's version of Suleiman's death. The forensic report said that he committed suicide. His brother said: “I raised my brother very well, and I know how faithful and religious he is. He can not have committed suicide. They killed him in his prison”. National (governmental) journals said that Suleiman hung himself to a window 3 meters away from the ground. Witnesses say that suicide is not the only possibility and that there were strangling marks on the neck, and bruises on his legs.

The official statement said that he committed suicide using the bed sheets, al-Mosawer official magazine said that it was using a plastic sheet, and the forensic report said that it was using a piece of a commando costume. Suleiman’s family issued a request to redo the dissection by an independent committee, however their request was declined. As soon as Suleiman’s death news was known, angry university and school students went out in protests. After all, the Israelis families got a compensation from the Egyptian government. Suleiman’s mother later said: “My son was killed, by the government, for the sake of America and Israel, so that they will be satisfied".


Suleiman Khater



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