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Militant Islam Monitor > Satire > Archille Lauro hijacker who escaped from Italy fought Israelis and Americans but plays humanitarian to Muslims in Lebanon

Archille Lauro hijacker who escaped from Italy fought Israelis and Americans but plays humanitarian to Muslims in Lebanon

May 27, 2007

Achile Lauro Hijacker at Nahr al-Bared

A Palestinian who escaped from Italy while on parole for the 1985 hijacking of cruise ship Achille Lauro is holed up in the Lebanon refugee camp where the army is besieging Islamist militants.
Bassam al-Ashker, now 39, told Agence France Presse by telephone that he is now a militiaman for the mainstream Fatah faction of Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and saw it as his duty to brave the fighting to help the thousands of trapped civilians.

Ashker was just 17 when he took part in the assault on the Achille Lauro by commandos of the Palestine Liberation Front of Abu Abbas in which some 450 passengers were held hostage for several days and a wheelchair-bound U.S. tourist was killed.

He told AFP he had retained his radical anti-Western politics and, after fleeing Italy in 1991 following his release on parole from nearly six years in jail, spent 14 years in Iraq before moving to Lebanon's Nahr al-Bared refugee camp.

"I organize the training of young Palestinian recruits who we send to fight the Americans alongside the Iraqi resistance," Ashker told AFP. "I have even fought them myself in Fallujah and Ramadi," two rebel bastions west of Baghdad.

Despite his anti-Western views, Ashker insisted he had no link with the Islamist fighters of fringe militant group Fatah al-Islam who are under siege by the Lebanese army and stand accused of using camp residents as human shields.

"They have certainly proved their military prowess," he said referring to the fighting of the past week in which 33 Lebanese soldiers but only 25 of the group's fighters were among the 78 dead.

"If they had used it to fight Israel, I would have been the first to join them, but they are fanatics who believe only in religion and have no regard of the consequences of their actions on civilians," he said.

"Not along time ago, Muslim clerics reminded them that it was wrong to attack Palestinians or Lebanese but they retorted that their religion took primacy over everything else."

Despite his disdain for the Fatah al-Islam fighters, Ashker insisted he had no intention of leaving the Nahr al-Bared camp, where living conditions have been deteriorating amid chronic shortages of water, food and power.

"It is shameful for a young man to leave the camp -- we need all the help we can get," he said.

"My men are organizing food and drink for trapped civilians, notably by going up on the rooftops to get water from the cisterns there, which is dangerous because of sniper fire. We're also organizing patrols to prevent burglaries from the homes of residents who have fled."(AFP)

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