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Zaidan, Muhammad

Born: 1948 AD
Died: 2004 AD
Nationality: Palestinian
Categories: Terrorist

1948 – Born on December 10, 1948.

1968 – Zaidan joined the radical, pro-Syrian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC) under Ahmed Jibril.

1977 – Zaidan, who opposed Syrian involvement in the Lebanese war, left the PFLP and created the  Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), which eventually split into three separate factions (and then later re-merged). Zaidan’s faction of the PLF, which was the largest of the three, moved its headquarters to Tunisia. Since its inception in 1977, the Abbas-led PLF was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization and received support from both the PLO and Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement. Unlike the PFLP-GC, the PLF has supported peace negotiations between Palestine and Israel.

1984 – Zaidan was elected to the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

1985 – Abu Abbas’s notoriety in the West is mostly due to his PLF faction’s, hijacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro. During the hijacking, wheelchair-bound American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer, was shot dead and thrown overboard, which caused an international outcry and resulted in strong pressure on the PLO. After the hijacking, under immense political pressure from the United States and Italy, Tunisia expelled Zaidan from the country. He fled to Baghdad, where Saddam Hussein sheltered him from extradition to Italy.

1989 – He represented the Palestinian National Council (PNC, the Palestinian parliament in exile) during peace negotiations with Israel. Although Zaidan was wanted by Israel for his involvement in guerrilla attacks against Israel (including terrorist attacks on civilians) throughout the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Israel allowed him to travel freely in the Gaza Strip throughout the 1990s because he supported the peace negotiations.

1996 – He made an apology for the Achille Lauro hijacking and murder of Leon Klinghoffer and advocated peace talks between Palestininans and Israel; the apology was rejected by the United States government and Klinghoffer’s family, who insisted he be brought to justice.

2003 – On April 15, 2003, Zaidan was captured by American forces in Iraq while attempting to flee from Baghdad to Syria. Italy subsequently requested his extradition.

2004 – The Pentagon reported on March 9, 2004 that Zaidan had died the previous day, March 8, 2004, of natural causes, while in US custody. The PLF accused the Americans of assassinating their leader. The US authorities agreed to give Abbas’ body to the Palestinian Red Crescent for burial in Ramallah on the West Bank. However, his burial there was blocked by the Israeli authorities, and he was buried in the Martyrs’ Cemetery in Damascus instead.