Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi laid a wreath at his late predecessor Anwar Sadat’s tomb on the anniversary of the 1973 war against Israel on Thursday, in a rare homage from an Islamist leader.
Morsi was accompanied by top military officials for the televised ceremony marking 39 years since the three-week conflict during Sadat’s rule, called the “October 6 victory” in Egypt.
Sadat was assassinated during 1981’s military parade to mark the war by an Islamist militant group which opposed Egypt’s peace accord signed with Israel two years earlier.
Jihan al-Sadat, widow of the late president, helped organise Thursday’s ceremony.
“I thank President Morsi once again for this kind gesture and his consideration for Anwar Sadat. In 30 years we have seen nothing like it,” she told state television.
Morsi, a senior Muslim Brotherhood figure before running for president, had published decrees honouring the memory of his predecessor and the army chief of staff at the time, and awarding medals to their families.
The Brotherhood had tense relations with Sadat’s regime, which granted its leadership figures amnesties but officially banned the movement.
In the 1973 surprise offensive, launched on October 6 in the middle of the Jewish Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) religious commemoration, Egyptian troops crossed the Suez Canal for the first time since the 1967 Six-Day War.
Despite a counter-offensive that allowed the Israelis to gain the upper hand, the initial attack which caught them unaware is celebrated with gusto each year by Egyptian authorities.
Sadat, vilified by many in the wider Arab world for signing the peace treaty without obtaining concessions for the Palestinians, was killed at a military parade celebrating the October 6 offensive.