Thursday, November 10, 2005

Footnote to the Amman bombing

John Burgess of Crossroads Arabia had personal contact with one of the victims. acquaintance, Mustapha Akkad, was injured and his daughter was killed. Akkad is a Syrian, from the city of Aleppo. I met him through his sister, who was with the University of Aleppo, with whom I worked when I was Cultural Affairs Officer in Damascus.

You may not recognize his name, but you will certainly recognize his work. Akkad is an accomplished film producer. Among his films are the "Halloween" series of horror films, produced from 1978-2002. (A 25-year retrospective is scheduled for release this year, as is "Halloween 9".)

In the Arab world, he is noted for two films that didn’t get much distribution in the US: "The Messenger" and "Lion of the Desert". Both films are available through Netflix and worth seeing."Lion of the Desert" (1981) told the story of Omar Mukhtar, a Libyan tribal leader who led the resistance against Italian occupation in the inter-war years. The film is magnificent in its scope, but was a commercial disaster. That Libyan ruler Qaddhafi was out of favor in/with the US didn’t help the film’s prospects much.

He also made the earlier film, "The Messenger". This was a film biography of the Prophet Mohammed. Curiously, this film was shot in parallel with an Arabic-language version of the film, with a different set of actors stepping in after a scene was shot to film in the other language. This film caused an uproar in the Muslim world, with many decrying it as blasphemous. Blasphemy was part of the complaints of a group of American Black-Muslims, the "Hanafi Muslims". The group undertook a series of simultaneous actions in Washington, DC in 1977, attacking a B’nai Brith headquarters as well as the District Building, the city hall for Washington's local government. In attempting to defend the building, Marion Barry, then a City Councilman, was shot and nearly killed. Barry went on to be elected Mayor six times–with an interlude in jail for drug use and possession between his third and fourth terms.

A seminal horror film producer, Akkad has also had his films manage to be at the center of one of the earliest American experiences of Islamic extremism. I send my condolences for his daughter's death and hope for his swift recovery.

Followup a few hours later...

Mr. Akkad died overnight. NBC Today reported the story with a quote from someone who remarked that the death of his daughter would hurt him worse than any injury. She died at once in the bombing. He had a heart attack which he didn't survive.

The report I just found includes this:

In Washington a US intelligence official said the claim of responsibility by Al-Qaeda's Baraibn al-Malik Brigade was the strongest indication yet that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, is using Iraq as a base from which to expand his operations in the region.

"The Jordanian press is reporting at least two (bombers) are likely Iraqis. We have no definitive answer as to whether they are Iraqi or not," the official said.

"However, the name of the group is the same name that Al-Qaeda uses in Iraq for their suicide martyr unit. So it stands to reason it is likely that they are Iraqi."

King Abdullah II vowed in a televised speech to catch those behind the bombings and said his country, only the second Arab nation to have signed a peace treaty with Israel, would not be "blackmailed" into changing its policies.

Deputy Prime Minister Marwan Moasher said Zarqawi was "certainly the prime suspect" and that remains of the three bombers had been found but not yet identified.
Zarqawi was released from a Jordanian jail in 1999 under a general amnesty granted by King Abdullah but now faces a death sentence in Jordan for the killing of a US diplomat in 2002 and is wanted for a number of attack plots.

He and his Al-Qaeda supporters are blamed for some of the worst attacks in Iraq.
Security officials said Iraqis were among those arrested in the investigation and that two of the six vehicles seized soon after the attacks had Iraqi license plates.

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