Former Black Panther arrested

A former member of the Black Panthers, the militant African American political group that burgeoned briefly in the racial tumult of the late Sixties, has been arrested and faces murder charges several days after he fired on two police officers in Atlanta, Georgia. One was killed and the other seriously wounded.

Police in the neighbouring state of Alabama confirmed yesterday that H. Rap Brown, who now goes under the name of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, was cornered in a small woodshed late on Monday night. Shots were exchanged before he was taken into custody. There were no further injuries.

A manhunt for Al-Amin, who took his new name after converting to Islam, spread across the American South after the Atlanta shootings last Thursday. Al-Amin is accused of fatally shooting police deputy Ricky Kinchen and wounding deputy Aldranon English.

The shootings were seized upon by the National Rifle Association, led by Charlton Heston, as evidence that President Clinton has been hypocritical in seeking gun control because not enough had been done to enforce existing firearms laws.

The NRA sought to bolster its argument by pointing out that Al-Amin, who once declared that violence is 'as American as cherry pie', has had a long history of alleged violent crimes. In 1995, he was accused of aggravated assault after a man claimed he had been fired upon by him.

Al-Amin once served as the head of a black body called the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). After a failed attempt at merging the SNCC with the Black Panthers in the late Sixties, Al-Amin was granted honorary membership of the Black Panther Party.

Al-Amin is well remembered for numerous outbursts against 'white domination'. In a 1967 news conference he defended black militancy saying, 'violence is necessary'. In the same year he was charged with inciting a riot in Cambridge, Maryland, where he told a crowd of young black people: "It's time for Cambridge to explode, baby. Black folks built America, but if America don't come around, we're going to burn America down."

For nearly 25 years, Al-Amin has lived in Atlanta. He owned a grocery shop and also a Mosque that is popular with the city's West End Muslim community.

Last week's exchange of fire occurred after police attempted to serve an arrest warrant on Al-Amin who had failed to appear in court to face robbery charges.