London

Palestinian cartoonist's 1987 murder reinvestigated

Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali Image copyright Met Police
Image caption Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali died a month after he was shot in the neck

The murder of a Palestinian cartoonist who was shot dead is being reinvestigated 30 years on.

Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali, a political cartoonist for Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, was shot in the neck as he walked to his office in west London.

He was taken to hospital after the attack on 22 July 1987 in Ives Street, Knightsbridge, but died a month later.

The Met's Counter Terrorism Command wants information about the gunman and a man seen driving from the scene.

Mr Al-Ali's satirical cartoons were sometimes seen as critical of the Palestinian regime and he had received a number of death threats in the years leading up to his murder, police said.

Witness: The Murder of Naji al-Ali

At the time of his death, Middle Eastern commentators maintained he had been killed as part of a Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) campaign to silence its critics in Europe and the Middle East, but the PLO denied this.

His son Khalid Al-Ali said: "Obviously many people were unhappy with his cartoons throughout his career: that could range from, obviously Israel as the enemy, and Arab leaders and Arab governments, including Palestinian leadership.

"There were always threats, there were always problems with his cartoons but this did not stop him from actually drawing."

A Palestinian student arrested in Hull during the inquiry was later jailed for possessing weapons and explosives. He claimed to have been working for both the PLO and the Israeli secret service, Mossad.

Image copyright Met Police
Image caption An artist's impression of the suspected gunman as he may look today

In the moments before his murder - for which no-one has ever been convicted - Mr Al-Ali had parked his car on Ixworth Place, before walking down Draycott Avenue and into Ives Street.

Witnesses reported seeing him being followed by the gunman, who shot him from behind.

They described him as being of Middle-Eastern appearance, aged about 25, with collar-length thick black hair that was wavy at the back.

He was wearing a stonewashed denim jacket and dark trousers.

After the attack, the gunman was seen running out of Ives Street, back across Draycott Avenue and into Ixworth Place.


Iconic characters

Prior to his murder, Naji Al-Ali published over 40,000 political cartoons in Arab newspapers, where his vitriolic satire took aim at Israel and the Palestine Liberation Movement, as well as Arab and Western countries. He made many enemies along the way.

His most iconic character is Handala, a refugee child who is always shown with his back turned to the reader "in protest of the world's complicity in the occupation of Palestine".

Mr Al-Ali's personal connection to Handala is well documented. He said: "Handala was born 10 years old, and he will always be 10 years old. At that age, I left my homeland. When he returns, Handala will still be 10. And then he will start growing up."


A witness described seeing another man crossing Fulham Road into Lucan Place and getting into the driver's seat of a silver-grey, left-hand drive Mercedes shortly after the incident.

The Met said he had been reportedly running with his left hand inside the right side of his jacket, as if he was concealing something.

He was described as being of Middle-Eastern appearance, aged in his 50s, about 5ft 9in and of medium build but with heavy shoulders.

He had dark bushy hair with a lot of grey in it, a "fattish" face and a "bigger than average nose". He was clean-shaven and of smart appearance in a grey suit.

The Mercedes was seen driving off along Lucan Place and left into Ixworth Place, towards the junction with Sloane Avenue.

It is believed that the registration number of the car contained the letters P and H in the first part and may have ended 11L.

'Allegiances shift'

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, said: "The gunman was seen following Mr Al-Ali for about 40 seconds before he shot him.

"Despite the briefness of the attack, witnesses were able to give investigators a good description of the suspect.

"We believe that he may have arranged to meet the man seen driving the silver-grey Mercedes straight after the murder. We believe that this driver was seen hiding the weapon in his coat, intending to dispose of it."

The gun - a 7.62 Tokarev pistol - was found in open space on the Hallfield Estate in Paddington almost two years after the murder, on 22 April 1989.

Cdr Haydon added: "The brutal murder of Mr Al-Ali devastated his family and 30 years on they continue to feel the loss.

"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."

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