Slain Islamic Jihad Leader Inspired by Khomeini and Sheik Omar
RAFAH, Gaza Strip (AP) _ His heroes were vehement anti-Western clerics: Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind clergyman jailed for masterminding the World Trade Center bombing, and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran.
Dr. Fathi Shakaki was a young medical student when he heard the call of Islamic fundamentalism and changed the course of his life.
Shakaki, assassinated in Malta on Thursday, founded the radical Islamic Jihad of Palestine, the group that claims responsibility for suicide bombings and other violence intended to thwart peace between Israel and the PLO.
``He told me that the leader who is not baptized with blood and fire is no good,″ said Abdul Aziz Shaheen, a leader of Yasser Arafat’s mainstream PLO faction Fatah. ``I guess he would have been happy with the way he died.″
Shakaki was a student in Egypt in the 1970s when he joined Islamic fundamentalist groups implicated in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
``He told me he helped plot the assassination of Sadat,″ Shaheen said. ``He told me the Islamic revolution in Iran should be the model for all Muslims.″
Shakaki, born in a Gaza refugee camp in 1951, was briefly arrested after the 1981 Sadat assassination. He fled to the Gaza Strip and established the Islamic Jihad, or ``holy war.″
Shakaki’s sister, Amneh, and his brother, Mohammed, remember their older brother preaching to crowds in this southern Gaza Strip town.
``He taught children the Koran,″ Islam’s holy book, said Amneh, swathed in black mourning clothes. ``He urged the people to pray.″
Abu Ahmed, an Islamic Jihad activist in Rafah, said Shakaki’s message was that Palestine should never be a ``calm lake″ until Israel is replaced by an Islamic state that would inspire a worldwide Islamic revolution.
Shakaki’s book, ``Khomeini, The Alternative and The Islamic Solution,″ predicts that the liberation of Palestine will be the spark to unite the Arab world.
After a modest start with a handful of followers, Shakaki’s Islamic Jihad eventually grew to attract 800 activists and to win the support of Iran.
The group claimed responsibility for several anti-Israel attacks in the 1980s. Since September 1993, when Israel and the PLO signed their first peace accord, suicide bombings by Islamic Jihad’s followers have killed dozens of Israelis.
In 1986, Israel sentenced Shakaki to four years in prison for terrorist activities. He was deported to Lebanon in 1988.
Fatah leader Shaheen met Shakaki in October 1982. Shakaki visited him at a Jerusalem hospital, where he was recuperating after a stint in jail. They spent the night discussing how to coordinate their fight against Israel.
``He was confident, he chose his words carefully,″ Shaheen recalled. ``He was polite, but at the same time tough.″
He said Shakaki told him he turned to Islam in the 1970s after listening to the teachings of Abdel-Rahman. The cleric, also implicated in Sadat’s killing, faces possible life in U.S. prison after his conviction last month on charges he planned the January 1992 World Trade Center bombing.
Shaheen also remembered Shakaki scorning the conciliatory overtures other Islamic groups made toward their secular governments. He said Shakaki told him ``Western invasion in the area was so strong it could only be overcome by holy war.″
Shakaki was killed outside a hotel in Valetta, the capital of Malta, the Islamic Jihad disclosed Sunday. A lone gunman on a motorbike, using a silenced pistol, shot him five times in the head.