Abu Abbas

Abu Abbas

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Muhammad Zaidan also known as Abū ‘Abbās () or Muhammad ‘Abbās, was the founder and leader of paramilitary group
Paramilitary
A paramilitary is a force whose function and organization are similar to those of a professional military, but which is not considered part of a state's formal armed forces....

 the Palestine Liberation Front
Palestine Liberation Front
The Palestine Liberation Front is a Palestinian militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organization by Canada, the European Union and the USA. It is presently led by Dr. Wasel Abu Yousef.-Origins:...

 (P.L.F.).

Political background


Zaidan was born in 1948 in a Syrian refugee camp.

Zaidan joined the radical, pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command under Ahmed Jibril
Ahmed Jibril
Ahmed Jibril is the founder and leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command , part of the left-wing, Palestinian national liberation movement....

 in 1968. In 1977, major disagreements arose between the P.F.L.P.-G.C., the P.L.O., and other Palestinian factions based in Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

. Zaidan, who opposed Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n involvement in the Lebanese war, left the P.F.L.P. and created the P.L.F. with Talaat Yaacoub, which eventually split into three separate factions (and then later re-merged). Zaydan's faction of the P.L.F., which was the largest of the three, moved its headquarters to Tunisia
Tunisia
Tunisia , officially the Tunisian RepublicThe long name of Tunisia in other languages used in the country is: , is the northernmost country in Africa. It is a Maghreb country and is bordered by Algeria to the west, Libya to the southeast, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north and east. Its area...

.

PLF Leader


Since its inception in 1977, the Abbas-led P.L.F. was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization
Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestine Liberation Organization is a political and paramilitary organization which was created in 1964. It is recognized as the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people" by the United Nations and over 100 states with which it holds diplomatic relations, and has enjoyed...

 and received support from both the P.L.O. and Yasser Arafat
Yasser Arafat
Mohammed Yasser Abdel Rahman Abdel Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini , popularly known as Yasser Arafat or by his kunya Abu Ammar , was a Palestinian leader and a Laureate of the Nobel Prize. He was Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization , President of the Palestinian National Authority...

's Fatah
Fatah
Fataḥ is a major Palestinian political party and the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization , a multi-party confederation. In Palestinian politics it is on the left-wing of the spectrum; it is mainly nationalist, although not predominantly socialist. Its official goals are found...

 movement. Unlike the P.F.L.P.-G.C., the PLF has supported peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Zaidan was elected to the Executive Committee of the PLO in 1984 and represented the Palestinian National Council
Palestinian National Council
The Palestinian National Council is the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization and elects its Executive Committee, which assumes leadership of the organization between its sessions. The Council normally meets every two years. Resolutions are passed by a simple majority with a...

 (P.N.C.) in 1989 during peace negotiations with Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Although Zaidan was wanted by Israel for his involvement in guerrilla attacks against Israel (including attacks against civilian
Civilian
A civilian under international humanitarian law is a person who is not a member of his or her country's armed forces or other militia. Civilians are distinct from combatants. They are afforded a degree of legal protection from the effects of war and military occupation...

s) throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Israel allowed him to travel freely in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

 throughout the 1990s because he supported the peace negotiations. One notable attack by the PLF under Zaidan's leadership resulted in the murders of Danny Haran (age 28) and his two daughters, Einat (4) and Yael (2) in April 1979 in their Nahariya
Nahariya
Nahariya is the northernmost coastal city in Israel, with an estimated population of 51,200.-History:Nahariya was founded by German Jewish immigrants from the Fifth Aliyah in the 1930s...

, Israel home by Samir Kuntar
Samir Kuntar
Samir Kuntar is a Lebanese Druze convicted murderer and former member of the Palestine Liberation Front...

.

Achille Lauro hijacking


Throughout the 1980s, the P.L.F. launched attacks on both civilian and military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 targets in the north of Israel, across the Lebanese border. In 1985 he masterminded the hijacking of the Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 cruise ship
Cruise ship
A cruise ship or cruise liner is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages, where the voyage itself and the ship's amenities are part of the experience, as well as the different destinations along the way...

 the Achille Lauro
MS Achille Lauro
MS Achille Lauro was a cruise ship based in Naples, Italy. Built between 1939 and 1947 as MS Willem Ruys, a passenger liner for the Rotterdamsche Lloyd. It is most remembered for its 1985 hijacking...

. During the hijacking, 69 year old wheelchair-using American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer
Leon Klinghoffer
Leon Klinghoffer was a disabled American appliance manufacturer who was murdered and thrown overboard by Palestinian terrorists in the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985.-Hijacking and murder:...

, was shot dead and thrown overboard. The four hijackers, fearful of United States military intervention, surrendered to Egypt in return for safe passage out of Egypt, based on the pretext that they had done no harm to any of the passengers. United States Special Operations Command
United States Special Operations Command
The United States Special Operations Command is the Unified Combatant Command charged with overseeing the various Special Operations Commands of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps of the United States Armed Forces. The command is part of the Department of Defense...

 intercepted the plane carrying the hijackers to Tunisia and redirected it to Sigonella a NATO base in Italy. There they discovered that Zaidan and PLO political officer Hassan were also on the plane. Due to insider deals within the Italian government, they were both flown from Sigonella to Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. From there, Zaidan and Hassan boarded a Yugoslav civilian airliner bound for Belgrade
Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

, Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia refers to three political entities that existed successively on the western part of the Balkans during most of the 20th century....

. Despite American requests for the extradition of Zaidan from Yugoslavia, he was not extradited due to Yugoslav relations with the PLO. He then flew to Aden
Aden
Aden is a seaport city in Yemen, located by the eastern approach to the Red Sea , some 170 kilometres east of Bab-el-Mandeb. Its population is approximately 800,000. Aden's ancient, natural harbour lies in the crater of an extinct volcano which now forms a peninsula, joined to the mainland by a...

, South Yemen and from there to Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 where Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 sheltered him from extradition
Extradition
Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by treaties...

 to Italy. He remained in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 and commanded the P.L.F. (reunited in 1989) until the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 sentenced Zaidan in absentia to five terms of life imprisonment for his role in the Achille Lauro hijacking. He was also wanted in the U.S. for crimes including terrorism
Terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

, piracy
Piracy
Piracy is an act of robbery or criminal violence at sea. The term can include acts committed on land, in the air, or in other major bodies of water or on a shore. It does not normally include crimes committed against persons traveling on the same vessel as the perpetrator...

, and murder
Murder
Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

. In 1996, he apologised for the Achille Lauro hijacking and murder of Leon Klinghoffer and advocated peace talks between Palestinians and Israel; the apology was rejected by the U.S. government and Klinghoffer's family.

Death in custody


On April 15, 2003, Zaidan was captured by American forces in Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 while attempting to flee from Baghdad
Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 to Syria. Italy subsequently requested his extradition. The Pentagon reported on March 9, 2004 that Zaidan had died the previous day, of natural causes, while in U.S. custody. The P.L.F. accused the Americans of assassinating their leader. The U.S. authorities agreed to give Abbas' body to the Palestinian Red Crescent for burial in Ramallah
Ramallah
Ramallah is a Palestinian city in the central West Bank located 10 kilometers north of Jerusalem, adjacent to al-Bireh. It currently serves as the de facto administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority...

 on the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

, Palestine. However, his burial there was blocked by the Israeli authorities, and he was buried in the Martyrs' Cemetery in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 instead.

External links

  • U.S. captures mastermind of Achille Lauro hijacking, David Ensor, CNN
    CNN
    Cable News Network is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States...

    , 16 April 2003
  • The World Should Know What He Did to My Family, Smadar Haran Kaiser, Washington Post, 18 May 2003
  • Achille Lauro hijacking, BBC
    BBC
    The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

    H2G2