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1987: Cartoonist shot in London street

A Palestinian cartoonist has been shot in the face and critically wounded in London.

Naji Salim al-Ali was gunned down outside his office on Ives Street, Chelsea at 1700 BST.

The most famous cartoonist in the Middle East, Mr al-Ali's work satirises Arabic politics and is especially critical of Iran leader Ayatollah Khomeini.

He was rushed to a nearby hospital, but has been transferred to the neurosurgical department at Charing Cross Hospital.

Eyewitnesses described Mr al-Ali being approached by two men - aged 25 to 30, with olive complexions - when one of them drew a gun and shot him at point blank range on the right side of his face.

He has worked for the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Qabas for three years and moved to London after he was expelled from Kuwait two years ago.

Under threat

Colleagues at the newspaper reported a Kuwaiti gang had tried to kill him before he left the country and he did not want to live in another Middle Eastern country because he feared for his life.

Mr al-Ali told the specialist journal Index on Censorship his life was in danger two weeks ago.

An Al Qabas spokesman says he has received over 100 death threats during his career.

Mr al-Ali's colleague revealed a senior member of Yasser Arafat's PLO telephoned the cartoonist in the middle of June and said: "You must correct your attitude."

"Don't say anything against the honest people, otherwise we will have business to sort you out," the caller continued.

Mr al-Ali ignored the warning and published a cartoon lampooning Mr Arafat and his henchmen on 24 June.

His cartoons are characterised by a small boy called Hanthala watching the scenes before him with childish innocence.

In Context
The next day the Iranian Embassy denied any involvement and the PLO blamed Arab intelligence sevices.

Police also returned to the scene to question passers-by and find more evidence.

Naji Salim al-Ali did not regain consciousness and died in Charing Cross Hospital on 29 August 1987.

Middle Eastern commentators maintained he was killed as part of a PLO campaign to silence its critics in Europe and the Middle East. /CPS:BOX>


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