Israel claims to have killed Islamic leader in airstrike
on 14/10/2012 17:17:55
Hisham Saidani was killed with his bodyguard in an airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip late last night. He was one of the top ideological guides for the violent, ultra-conservative Islamic movements in Gaza, known as Salafi jihadis.
The Israeli military said Saidani, 43, was suspected of carrying out attacks against Egyptian and Israeli targets but provided no further information.
In recent years, a number of shadowy groups that claim inspiration from al Qaida have been on the rise in Gaza. While they are not believed to have direct links with the global terror network, the groups share the same violent anti-Western ideology. They have also clashed with the ruling Islamic militant Hamas movement.
Saidani led a small group, Tawhid wal Jihad, believed to be responsible for killing an Israeli civilian working along the Egyptian border last June. He was also linked to the Mujahideen Shura Council, another militant group operating in Gaza and Egypt's neighbouring Sinai desert.
Followers of Saidani were responsible for kidnapping and killing Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni in Gaza in March 2011. Saidani later denounced the act.
He sought to unite the many groups of ultraconservative Salafis in Gaza, according to jihadis commenting about his death. He was widely respected by fundamentalists in Gaza and through the region.
In response to Saidani's death, al Qaida's media arm warned Israel that its "joy will not last long".
"We fully trust our brothers that they will be capable of avenging the killing," said a statement by the Global Islamic Media Front, a European group that supports al Qaida and other extremist organisations.