British Police Reopen Investigation Into 1987 Murder of Palestinian Cartoonist in London

Naji Salim Hussain al-Ali, whose work regularly satirized Palestinian and Arab leaders, was shot to death while walking to work in Knightsbridge

Naji Salim Hussain al-Ali
Metropolitan Police/AP

The British police have reopened an investigation into the unsolved murder of a controversial Palestinian cartoonist, 30 years after his death.

Naji Salim Hussain al-Ali was shot to death in West London on July 22, 1987, as he walked to work in the well-to-do Knightsbridge neighborhood.

The Guardian reports that at the time of his death, Ali was one of the best-known cartoonists in the Arab world, with his illustrations frequently mocking Palestinian and Arab leaders.

Some Middle Eastern writers suggested at the time that Ali had been killed by the PLO, but the Palestinian organization denied this.

BBC News quoted Ali's son, Khalid Al-Ali, as saying, "Obviously, many people were unhappy with his cartoons throughout his career: that could range from, obviously, Israel as the enemy, and Arab leaders and Arab governments, including the Palestinian leadership.

"There were always threats, there were always problems with his cartoons. But this did not stop him from actually drawing."

In its statement released Monday, the Met Police wrote: "At approximately 17.10hrs on Wednesday, 22 July, 1987, Mr. Naji Salim Hussain Al-Ali – a political cartoonist for Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas – was shot in the back of his neck as he walked to his office in Ives Street, Knightsbridge."

The head of the Met's counterterrorism unit, Commander Dean Haydon, said: "The gunman was seen following Ali for about 40 seconds before he shot him. Despite the briefness of the attack, witnesses were able to give investigators a good description of the suspect.

Witnesses described the suspected gunman as being of Middle-Eastern appearance and aged about 25, which would make him about 55 today.

London police have issued an updated artist's impression, showing what the alleged gunman may look like today.

The artist's impression of what the alleged gunman may look like today, released by the Metropolitan Police.
Metropolitan Police/AP

The police are appealing for information about the gunman and a man who was seen driving away after the shooting in a silver-gray Mercedes.

The police say they believe the gunman "may have arranged to meet the man seen driving the silver-gray Mercedes straight after the murder. We believe that this driver was seen hiding the weapon in his coat, intending to dispose of it," said Haydon.

The gun was found nearly two years later, in April 1989, in open space in Paddington, West London. The police have also released an image of the weapon, which was a 7.62 Tokarev pistol.

"The brutal murder of  Ali devastated his family and 30 years on they continue to feel the loss," Haydon said in the statement.

He added: "A lot can change in 30 years – allegiances shift and people who were not willing to speak at the time of the murder may now be prepared to come forward with crucial information."