London – On the 30th anniversary of the murder of Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali, British police relaunched an investigation, appealing to the public to help identify and find his killers.
On July 22, 1987, Ali, 51, was fatally shot in the back of his neck in West London as he walked to his office in Knightsbridge. He was taken to hospital where he remained in a coma until he died more than a month later on August 29.
Ali had received several death threats because of his cartoons that were sometimes perceived as critical and satirical of Middle Eastern policies. He worked for the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Qabas.
In the moments leading up to his murder, Ali parked his car on Ixworth Place, walked down into Draycott Avenue and onto Ives Street.
Witnesses reported seeing him being followed by the suspected gunman, who they described as being of Middle-Eastern appearance and aged about 25. He was wearing a stonewashed denim jacket and dark trousers.
Witnesses describe seeing the suspect close to Naji holding a black automatic handgun. After the attack, the suspect was seen to run out of Ives Street back across Draycott Avenue and into Ixworth Place.
Another witnesses reported seeing another man in his fifties running shortly after the incident with his left hand inside the right side of his jacket as if he was hiding something.
Head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command (CTC) Dean Haydon said that the gunman was seen following Ali for about 40 seconds before he shot him. Witnesses were able to give investigators a good description of the suspect.
Haydon stated that the brutal murder of Ali devastated his family and 30 years on they continue to feel the loss.
“We have previously reviewed this case and followed a number of lines of inquiry which have not resulted in us identifying these two men. However, 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,” he stated.
He added:”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.”
Osama al-Ali, Naji al-Ali’s son, described his father as a very dedicated family man who wanted to spend as much time with his kids as possible.
“On top of that he was also very dedicated to his passion of his artwork and the political implications of that, and his people,” he added.
The son reiterated that the family would like to have a closure and answers to all their questions.
“We are encouraged by the fact that the investigation is being reopened and we have some path towards resolution, so we know what happened,” he added.