CAIRO – The nephew of President Anwar Sadat's assassin and son of a wanted Islamist returned to Egypt for the first time in two decades on Saturday after Egypt's new leaders removed him and others from an entry blacklist in an apparent shift in policy.
Khaled el-Islambouli returned with his wife, two children and three siblings after getting travel documents from the Egyptian Embassy in Turkey, Cairo airport officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The ruling military council that took control of Egypt from ousted President Hosni Mubarak has removed nearly 2,000 people from a list of Egyptians barred from entering the country. Other officials said many more Egyptians remain barred from entry, and a separate blacklist for foreigners remains in place.
Some, like el-Islambouli and his family, were not sought by authorities but had been included on the list under Mubarak's rule as a way to pressure their wanted relatives. Most of those barred from entry were Islamists who traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1980s to join the fight against the Soviet forces that invaded Afghanistan.
After a wave of attacks by Islamists in Egypt in the 1990s, Mubarak's government had decided to prevent them from returning to Egypt and also included their families.
An expert in Islamic movements said allowing the return of family members who are not wanted eliminates a policy that some had blamed for radicalizing Islamists and turning them against Egypt's leaders.
"Denying those who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s, known as Arab Afghans, was one of the reasons why al-Qaida came into being in the first place," said Ammar Ali Hassan.
Hassan described the change as a "humanitarian gesture."
Some security officials worry that allowing such a large number of former Jihadists to return to Egypt may pose a security a risk. But Ammar said their return could also provide a trove of intelligence information on those who are wanted.
El-Islambouli left Egypt at the age of 2. He is the nephew of the man who killed Sadat in 1981, whose name is also Khaled el-Islambouli.
The airport officials said he had been living in Iran, where his wanted father, Mohammed el-Islambouli, is also believed to be living.
His father is one of a number of Egyptians Mubarak's regime had wanted extradited from Iran. He is wanted in connection with attacks in Egypt in the 1990s. The extradition issue was one of several that further soured relations between Iran and Mubarak's government.
Iran first cut diplomatic ties after Egypt signed a peace agreement with Israel in 1979 and provided asylum for the deposed Iranian Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
The interim government that took office after the fall of Mubarak has said it is ready to open a new page with Iran. It is not clear if el-Islambouli's return is related.