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Muslim Cleric Slain; Rushdie Link Suspected

From Times Wire Services

The leader of Muslims in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg and his aide were shot and killed Wednesday, five weeks after the imam had distanced himself from Iran’s death sentence for Salman Rushdie, author of the controversial novel, “The Satanic Verses.”

Imam Abdullah Ahdal, 36, a Saudi Arabian known as a moderate, and Salim Behir, a 40-year-old Tunisian who headed the Brussels mosque’s social services and library, were shot at close range in the imam’s office in the mosque, police said.

A police official said the killings may be the first in the Western world related to the Rushdie affair.

No Claim of Responsibility

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The bodies were found by members of the Islamic community early Wednesday evening. No one immediately claimed responsibility, and no arrests were made.

The two men each were shot twice, once in the head and once in the neck, police said. Unconfirmed reports said three hooded men were seen jumping from a van, entering the mosque and then leaving.

Ahdal’s wife, clad in a black veil and red dress, ran out of the mosque after the two men’s bodies were discovered, brandishing a pistol and shaking with anger over her husband’s murder.

She threatened to shoot at an assembled crowd before police seized her and established that she had not killed the two men.

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On Feb. 14, Iran’s supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a death sentence for Rushdie for writing the novel many Muslims consider blasphemous.

In a Feb. 20 interview on RTBF, Belgium’s French-language television network, Ahdal agreed that Rushdie’s book was blasphemous.

But he said of Khomeini’s death sentence: “One should not have done that. Rushdie should have first appeared (before an Islamic tribunal). He should have explained himself, defend himself. He should have been asked to repent.”


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