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Tension high after Jihad leader slain

Group vows revenge against Jews

October 29, 1995
Web posted at: 12:45 p.m. EST (1745 GMT)

From International Reporter Jerrold Kessel and wires

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The militant group Islamic Jihad is promising suicide attacks against Jews for the killing of its leader, Dr. Fathi Shakaki. Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has said he's not sorry about the killing, which took place late last week.

"We tell the Zionists headed by the terrorist Rabin that this horrendous crime will make every Zionist wherever they are on the face of the earth a target to our amazing blasts and our bodies exploding in anger," said a scathing Islamic Jihad statement sent to an international news agency.

Shakaki was shot down in Malta on Thursday by a passing motorcyclist. A gunman on a Valeta street pumped five bullets at short range into the 43-year-old Egyptian-trained doctor, who was en route back to his Syria base from Libya.

Malta police call the killing "a professional job." One terrorism expert said the assassinations had the specific hallmarks of an Israeli action. Expert Yossi Melman reeled off a list of reasons for his thinking: "The professionalism, the good intelligence about his whereabouts, exact precise intelligence to find him and track him down in Malta, the motivation ..."

Israeli forces, especially at crossings out of Gaza and the West Bank, were reported on high alert. Students chanted in defiance at Gaza's Islamic University, where the radical Palestinian leader used to teach and where many young Palestinians vow to carry on Islamic Jihad's unrelenting battle against Israel and its peace process with the PLO.

There was no official Jerusalem reaction to the accusation that its Mossad intelligence service was involved. Prime Minister Rabin, however, said that, given Shakaki's record, he was "certainly not unhappy" at the man's death.

The Islamic leader was imprisoned by Israel and, in 1988, deported to Lebanon. Thereafter, he operated out of Damascus. In an interview with him broadcast last year on Israel Television, Shakaki said, "I want real peace. Real peace means Israel will not exist."

Islamic Jihad claimed its suicide bombers killed dozens of Israelis in a series of deadly attacks aimed at scuttling the peace process with PLO chief Yasser Arafat. Israel says Shakaki personally masterminded those attacks. His death won't undermine the peace, said Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

"I think his business was murdering," Peres said. "So if there will be one murderer less I don't see how it is going to affect the peace process."

Mainstream Palestinian leaders are worried. "If there is now a bloody incident here or there, this will give Israel a chance and a new umbrella to stop their withdrawal or redeployment in the West Bank," said Palestinian Justice Minister Freikh Abu-Medein.

An immediate outbreak of violence came in the West Bank town of Hebron, where young Palestinians showed solidarity with the slain Islamic Jihad leader. As small an organization as Islamic Jihad is and despite the fact that most Palestinians back the peace process, there is worry that a new chain of violence is being forged.

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