British police relaunched an investigation Tuesday into the murder of a Palestinian cartoonist 30 years to the day after he was shot dead in a London street. Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali, a political cartoonist for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, was shot in the back of the neck as he walked to his office on July 22, 1987. The 51-year-old died in a coma in hospital on August 29 that year.
Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) is reopening the case, appealing for information about the gunman and a second man later seen driving away from the scene. They feel allegiances may have shifted over time and people with information who did not come forward in 1987 may now feel able to speak.
“The brutal murder of Mr Al-Ali devastated his family and 30 years on they continue to feel the loss,” CTC commander Dean Haydon said. “A lot can change in 30 years: allegiances shift and people who were not willing to speak at the time of the murder may now be prepared to come forward with crucial information.
“We remain open-minded about the motive for Mr Al-Ali’s murder and we believe there are people somewhere who have information that could help us bring those responsible for his murder to justice.”
Al-Ali’s cartoons were sometimes perceived as critical of the Palestinian authorities and he had received several death threats. Al-Ali was shot in the plush Knights bridge district. The suspected gunman was described as being of Middle Eastern appearance and aged about 25.
He followed Al-Ali for about 40 seconds before shooting him, Haydon said.
The black automatic handgun, a 7.62 Tokarev pistol, was found on open ground in London in 1989. Test firings showed markings on the bullets that matched those on the cartridge case recovered from the murder scene.
A second man, described as being in his 50s and of Middle Eastern appearance, was seen running with his left hand inside the right side of his jacket, as if he was concealing something, and getting into a silver-grey Mercedes car shortly afterwards.
“We believe that this driver was seen hiding the weapon in his coat, intending to dispose of it,” said Haydon. The new Metropolitan Police appeal is called Operation Amazon.