Two unidentified motorcycle-riding gunmen shot dead a Palestinian engineer Saturday as he was walking to a mosque for dawn prayers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian police and the political group Hamas said.
Fadi Mohamed Al Batsh, 35, was killed at dawn after the gunmen opened fire with pistols, striking him four times, including once in the head, police said.
Hamas didn’t disclose Al Batsh’s role in the Islamist militant group but it issued a statement on its website describing him as a member and a scientist who was originally from a refugee camp north of the Gaza Strip.
Al Batsh’s killing came a day after Israeli intelligence minister Israel Katz threatened the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip with “targeted elimination,” after the Islamist militant group reportedly released a video of top Israeli officers in a sniper rifle crosshairs.
Hours after the shooting, Malaysia’s state news agency Bernama quoted Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying that the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency.
Mazlan Lazim, the Kuala Lumpur police chief, told reporters that footage from a closed-circuit television showed that the shooters had waited for Fadi for almost 20 minutes. He said police were investigating all angles, including terrorism.
“Based on the shooting marks, it showed that [the gunmen] had fired more than 10 shots at him, suggesting that they really wanted to kill him,” Mazlan said.
“Why they wanted to kill him, we have no idea,” he said. “We are probing further.”
Ahmad Zahid claimed that Al Batsh was active in pro-Palestinian non-governmental organizations and was an expert in electrical engineering and rocket-building. He also said the victim had links with foreign intelligence, but he did not provide evidence.
Al Batsh could have been seen as “a liability for a country that is an enemy of Palestine,” Zahid told reporters, according to Bernama. The deputy prime minister did not elaborate.
Anwar H. Al Agha, the Palestinian ambassador to Malaysia, told the newspaper The New Straits Times that victim Al Batsh was a University of Malaya graduate and was supposed to have left to chair a conference on energy in Turkey on Saturday.
“He was a kind, friendly and a quiet person. He mixed well with everyone,” the diplomat said, adding that the victim has been living in Malaysia for 10 years, “working as electrical engineering lecturer at a private university.”
Malaysia's Islamist party, PAS, condemned Al Batsh’s killing and urged the government to conduct a thorough investigation.
Hamas, in a short statement posted on its website, mourned Al Batsh’s death, described him as a “martyr” and praised his “commitment for the Palestinian struggle.”
According to news reports on Friday, four people were killed, including a 15-year-old boy, in the fourth consecutive week of protests organized by Hamas along the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, which Hamas controls.