It may seem ironic to speak of the “spiritual leader” of a gang of murderous cutthroats, but that is to assume that these men are transgressing the bounds of their religion, which is the one thing that they seem especially careful not to do. From AP:
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) The spiritual leader of a militant group that claimed to have beheaded two American hostages in Iraq has been killed in a U.S. airstrike, and his Jordanian family is preparing a wake, a newspaper and Islamic clerics said Wednesday.
Sheik Abu Anas al-Shami, 35, was killed when a missile hit the car he was traveling in on Friday in the west Baghdad suburb of Abu-Ghraib, said the clerics, who have close ties to the family. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
Al-Shami was a close aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the militant group Tawhid and Jihad. The al-Qaida-linked group is blamed for some of the biggest attacks in Iraq, including the bombing of the U.N. headquarters last year, and the beheadings of foreign hostages including two Americans this week.
Al-Zarqawi is believed to have personally decapitated the American hostage Eugene Armstrong on Monday.
Al-Shami, a Jordanian of Palestinian descent who was also known as Omar Yousef Jumah, was believed to be the voice on several audio tapes that Tawhid and Jihad released via the Internet. In one such tape in August, a speaker identified as al-Shami said the militants planned to kill Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, soldiers and police officers.
”We will not allow you to destroy our hopes in this blessed holy war, and we will not let you steal our bright tomorrow, which is now appearing on the horizon,” the speaker said on the tape….
In the late 1990s, the government closed down an Islamic center that al-Shami had established in Amman on grounds that it was propagating a fanatical interpretation of Islam, according to the clerics and Al-Ghad newspaper.