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Mubarak survives attempt on life

The men in the blue Toyota Land Cruiser wanted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to die.

As Mubarak's three-car entourage was driving from Addis Ababa's airport for the opening of an African summit, the assassins veered across a grassy median and rammed the lead car.

Two men piled out and began to spray Mubarak's black Mercedes-Benz limousine with bullets from their AK-47s. They hit the limousine at least a dozen times, but Mubarak's prudence paid off: His car has both armor and bulletproof glass. He was not hurt.

"I saw those who shot at me," Mubarak said after returning to Cairo.

Presidential guards jumped out of the last car and returned fire.

Two of the attackers were killed in a lengthy shootout with Egyptian and Ethiopian guards. Two Ethiopian security agents also were killed and one was wounded.

"I was cool all the time," Mubarak said. "There is a God, and no one is going to live longer than he was given to live."

At least five men and perhaps more were involved in the attack. Other gunmen escaped in the Land Cruiser.

Mubarak, 67, inherited the presidency when Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981, and with it the battle between those who want the country as part of the modern, secular world and those who want strict Islamic rule.

The campaign turned violent in the spring of 1992. More than 750 people have been killed since, mostly police and extremists but some tourists and minority Christians as well.

Mubarak has vowed to bring down the extremists and rejects any suggestion of dialogue. He has said the extremists are not real Muslims and only use Islam as a tool in their struggle for power.

The revolt has badly hurt Egypt's tourism industry, but in the last year security forces have largely isolated the extremists in southern Egypt. The government remains on guard for possible attacks in the capital and other major cities.

Human rights groups have accused the government was using torture and even summary executions to put down the revolt. Some opponents have charged Mubarak is becoming as repressive as Sadat was before his assassination.

Egyptian officials deny human rights violations.

Mubarak also has played a key role as mediator in the Israel-Arab peace process and has rebuilt ties to other Arab nations broken when Sadat made peace with the Jewish state in 1979. He is regarded as a close ally of the West.

A former air force commander, Mubarak has always had solid backing from the military, which remains the bulwark behind Egypt's government.

Mubarak has escaped at least two other assassination plots since he succeeded Sadat, but Monday's attack was by far the most sophisticated and came closest to success.

No one claimed responsibility although the Vanguards of Conquest, a revival of the Jihad group that killed Sadat, welcomed the attack and vowed to finish off the Egyptian leader next time.

In Gaza, PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat called the attempted assassination a terrorist and criminal act and expressed his "pleasure and comfort that President Mubarak wasn't hurt."

It was not the first time that Mubarak has looked down the barrel of an assassin's gun.

In 1981 Mubarak, then vice president, was sitting next to Sadat at a military parade when soldiers belonging to the Jihad movement attacked the reviewing stand where officials were sitting.

One of the attackers asked Mubarak to move away before firing at Sadat. Mubarak was wounded in the hand.