Abu Abbas dies in US custody

Abu Abbas, the Palestinian mastermind of the Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking in 1985, has died in US custody in Iraq.

    Abbas was captured in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein

    The Pentagon said on Tuesday that Abbas, 55,


    died of apparent natural causes the previous day


    He had been held by the occupation military in Iraq since

    his arrest there on 14 April.

    "Initial reports indicate that he apparently died of

    natural causes. Medical efforts to revive him were

    unsuccessful. An autopsy will be performed," Bryan Whitman, a US

    Defence Department spokesman, said.

    Family 'denied justice'

    Whitman refused to say where Abbas had died. However, another defence

    official, who asked not to be identified, said he was being

    held in Iraq at the time of his death.

    The family of Leon Klinghoffer, the

    sole victim of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, said they

    had been denied justice by his death


    "The one consolation

    for us is that Abu Abbas died in captivity, n

    ot as a free man," Klinghoffers'

    daughters Ilsa and Lisa said in a statement.

    "The one consolation

    for us is that Abu Abbas died in captivity, n

    ot as a free man"

    Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer

    Klinghoffer, an American Jew, was shot in his wheelchair and

    thrown overboard after Palestinian hijackers, led by Abbas, took

    over the ship on which he had been spending a wedding anniversary

    cruise with his wife. He was 69.

    Palestinian cause

    The Klinghoffer family spent 18 years seeking Abbas's capture and

    eventual extradition to the United States to stand trial.

    "Abu Abbas was a vicious terrorist who was responsible for

    countless deaths of innocent people - men, women and children -

    throughout the Middle East," the family statement said.

    "His trial and conviction also would have sent a clear message

    to terrorists everywhere that, if they kill an American citizen,

    they can run but they can't hide."

    Abbas was sentenced in absentia in Italy to five life terms for

    his role in the Achille Lauro hijacking.

    He said he took over the cruise liner to draw the world's attention to Israeli persecution of the Palestinians.



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