The spiritual mentor of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed in a US air strike, associates and relatives said yesterday.
Omar Youssef Jumah, known as Abu Annas al-Shami, a Muslim cleric who justified Zarqawi's alleged beheading of hostages in Iraq, died last Friday while heading to the west of Baghdad, they said. The report could not be independently confirmed.
Shami called himself the grand mufti, or spiritual guide, of Zarqawi's Tawhid wal Jihad group.
In edicts published on Islamist web sites, Shami said Islam permitted the beheading of hostages who co-operated with the US military.
'Whenever a major kidnapping would take place they would take from him a ruling on how to handle the hostage according to religious sharia teachings,' one Islamist activist said.
Shami's militancy was shaped by four years as a religious seminary student in Saudi Arabia, where he fell under the influence of the strict Wahhabi brand of Islam before returning to Jordan in 1991."