Abu Abbas followers claim leader was assassinated by CIA, Mossad while in US custody in Iraq
Abu Abbas, the Palestinian mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro passenger ship, has "died" in U.S. custody in Iraq, U.S. and Palestinian officials said Tuesday.
A U.S. official in Washington told The AP Abbas "died" recently of "natural causes". The official said Abbas' health had been deteriorating.
However, supporters of Abbas blamed the US for their leader's "death", claiming the Americans had killed him.
Omar Shibli - PLF deputy secretary-general - held the CIA and Mossad responsible for the death of Abu Abbas. Shibli told Al Bawaba Wednesday that their leader was held in US custody illegally and was kept isolated from the entire world. “Continuous interrogation by agents from the Mossad and the CIA led to his tragic death,” he added.
“Since his apprehension last April, Abu Abbas has been the target of a slow assassination plot conducted by the Americans. We all expected him to die [as a martyr] in detention as a result of the inhumane conditions he was going through,” Shibli emphasized.
Abbas was taken by American special operations forces during a raid last year on the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital city.
Shibli asserted that his movement will demand an international panel to look into the incident of his death, adding “the PLF will ask for unbiased doctors and experts in international law and human rights to conduct a thorough investigation.” He also added “We need to know the truth about what really happened and what was the real cause of Abul Abbas’ death. We have proof that he has been suffering a slow killing process by the Americans.”
Shibli also revealed that Abu Abbas’ body will be handed to members of the PLF in the coming hours. “Contacts are being held between Palestinian president Yasser Arafat and Abu Abbas’ family over his final resting place - Damascus or Palestine,” he concluded.
On his part, Arafat paid homage to Abu Abbas calling him a "martyr."
Arafat and the Palestinian leadership reported the death of "the combatant martyr Abu Abbas, former member of the PLO central committee and PLF general secretary," in a statement to the official WAFA news agency.
Abu Abbas, whose name actually was Mohammed Abbas, led a faction of the Palestine Liberation Front, a Palestinian splinter group.
Abbas was born in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in Syria in 1948 after his family fled from their home in Tira, near Haifa, when Israel was "established".
He attended Damascus University and graduated with a degree in Arab literature. He also became involved in student politics, and in 1967 joined George Habash's Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
In 1976, Abbas took his followers to form a new faction, the Palestine Liberation Front. It launched the first attempt to infiltrate Israel by air in 1981 when two PLF fighters flew motorised hang-gliders from south Lebanon into northern Israel in an unsuccessful attempt to attack an oil refinery near Haifa.
His faction operated out of Tunisia until the October 1985 attack on the Achille Lauro, after which it relocated to Iraq. His group was also responsible for some attacks in Israel. Abbas was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee from 1984 but left in 1991. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)