Cruise ship hijack mastermind dies in US custody

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The Independent Online

US officials in Iraq said today that Abul Abbas, the Palestinian mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro passenger ship during which a wheelchair-bound American tourist was killed, died in American custody.

Abbas died Baghdad, where he was captured by American forces in April, nearly two decades after being convicted in absentia by an Italian court and sentenced to life in prison for the hijacking.

According to a statement released by the US Coalition Provisional Authority, Abbas, who had been in US custody for nearly a year, died of natural causes. There was an unsuccessful attempt to revive him.

Abbas's Palestine Liberation Front commandeered the Italian cruise ship, demanded the release of 50 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and threw an elderly Jewish American tourist, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard after shooting him.

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