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Palestinian Radical Abu Nidal Dies in Baghdad - 2002-08-19

One of the most notorious Palestinian guerrilla leaders, the man known as Abu Nidal, has been found dead in his home in Baghdad.

A senior source in the office of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat confirms reports that Abu Nidal was found dead in Baghdad, under what he termed mysterious circumstances. At the same time, the source said he did not rule out the possibility of suicide.

Reports of the guerrilla leader's death originally appeared in the Palestinian newspaper, Al-Ayyam, which said that Abu Nidal was found dead three days ago from gunshot wounds in an apparent suicide.

Apparently the newspaper heard of the incident when Abu Nidal's relatives called to complain that the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Baghdad had refused to receive his body.

His real name was Sabri al-Banna, but he became widely known by his nom de guerre, Abu Nidal. He was a fierce foe of Yasser Arafat and anyone who might seek accommodation with Israel. He broke away from the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1974, complaining it was too moderate.

In the 1970s and '80s, his splinter group, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, carried out a campaign of attacks and assassinations spanning numerous countries and several continents and included Palestinian and other Middle Eastern as well as European and American targets. His group is believed to have been responsible for killing and injuring hundreds of people.

Abu Nidal's organization is blamed for killing PLO representatives in several European capitals and was suspected of assassinating senior PLO figures, including Abu-Iyad, in Tunis.

Its targets were varied, including the Nev Shalom synagogue in Istanbul, Jordanian airline offices in Europe, the attempted downing of a Jordanian airliner, the assassinations of a Jordanian diplomat in Ankara, a British cultural attache in Athens, and the British deputy ambassador in India, and the attempted assassination of Israel's ambassador to Britain. The group was blamed for hijacking an Egyptian airliner bound for Malta, where 60 people were killed in the ensuing rescue effort.

Abu Nidal reportedly suffered from leukemia. He was 65 years old.