Maltese police confirmed today that an Arab gunned down by two men on a motorcycle was radical Palestinian leader Fathi Shiqaqi and said they had stepped up efforts to track down the killers.
The Maltese had identified the victim as Ibrahim Shawesh, 43, a Libyan citizen, but the militant Islamic Jihad group said that the slain man was its leader Shiqaqi and said Shawesh was his alias.
Islamic Jihad accused Israel's secret service of killing Shiqaqi and said they would avenge his death. Israeli officials did not confirm or deny Israeli involvement but welcomed the killing.
The police spokesman said Shiqaqi's body was taken to Libya on Saturday. They said the victim was shot outside his seaside hotel six miles from Valletta on Thursday. There were no reports that he was armed.
Police sources said he was approached by two men on a motorcycle who fired five bullets into his head at point-blank range with a gun equipped with a silencer before escaping. The motorcycle was found nearby on Saturday and police said it had false license plates.
The Associated Press added from Gaza City:
Palestinians burned American and Israeli flags and swore revenge for the assassination of Shiqaqi.
Students at the Islamic University in Gaza City demanded retaliation against Israel's intelligence agency.
"We assure the assassins of the Zionist entity . . . this ugly crime will make every Zionist on the face of the Earth a target for our painful strike," said an Islamic Jihad leaflet distributed in the Gaza Strip.