Malcom X widow dies from burns

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Betty Shabazz, the widow of Malcolm X, has died from burns after a fire which was allegedly started by her 12-year-old grandson.

She suffered third-degree burns over 80 per cent of her body after the fire on 1June at her home in Yonkers, New York State. Mrs Shabazz, 61, underwent five operations to replace burned tissue with artificial skin.

Her grandson, Malcolm Shabazz, named after Malcolm X, was arrested within hours of the fire which he is alleged to have started because he was unhappy at being sent to live with his mother, Qubilah Shabazz, in Texas. He is being held in juvenile custody.

In 1965, pregnant with twins, Mrs Shabazz was in the audience at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom with her four children when gunmen pumped 16 shots into her husband as he preached on stage. She became a university administrator and spokeswoman for civil rights, and raised the couple's six daughters.

"Millions of people look to her for some kind of understanding of the history of the struggle," said black activist and poet Amiri Baraka.

Kate Watson-Smyth