Gunmen shoot dead Palestinian lecturer in Malaysia

A man hangs a poster depicting Palestinian electrical engineer Fadi al-Batash, who was shot to death in Malaysia, on his family house in the northern Gaza Strip April 21, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Two unidentified men shot dead a Palestinian man in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, Malaysian and Palestinian authorities reported, and Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister said the suspects were believed to be linked to a foreign intelligence service.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Mazlan Lazim said two men on a motorcycle fired 10 shots at the 35-year-old victim, killing him on the spot.

"Preliminary investigations found four gunshot wounds on the victim's body. Two bullet slugs were found at the scene of the incident," Mazlan said in a statement.

When contacted later by Reuters, Mazlan declined to comment on reports that the victim was a member of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas or had been targeted by hitmen.

"It's too early to say, we are still investigating all aspects."

Palestine's ambassador to Malaysia Anwar Al Agha later identified the victim as Palestinian Fadi al-Batsh, an engineering lecturer, but declined to say if he was a member of Hamas. Witnesses at the scene had told him that the two suspects had "European features", the ambassador told Reuters.

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the suspects were believed to be Europeans with links to a foreign intelligence agency, state news agency Bernama reported.

He added the victim had links with foreign intelligence and was active in pro-Palestinian non-governmental organizations, describing him as an expert in electrical engineering and rocket-building.

The victim could have been seen as "a liability for a country that is an enemy of Palestine," Zahid was quoted as saying by Bernama.

Hamas, which exercises de facto control over Gaza, said one of its members had been "assassinated" in Malaysia and it had sent a delegation to meet with Malaysian officials to discuss the killing.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh said Israel's Mossad intelligence service had been behind past attempts to assassinate Palestinian scientists, and that al-Batsh's killing "follows this sequence."

Officials in Israel declined to comment.

Batsh's uncle Jamal al-Batsh spoke to Reuters in the town of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip.

    Asked who he blamed, he replied: "The Israeli Mossad. The Israeli Mossad stood behind the assassination of educated people and intellectuals because Israel knows Palestine will be liberated by scientists.

    "Therefore, they tracked this young educated man."

Batsh was a lecturer at Universiti Kuala Lumpur, specializing in power engineering, according to the university.

A Palestinian in Malaysia who knew Batsh told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the victim was also an imam at a mosque close to his residence.

In recent weeks, tensions have been running high at the Gaza-Israel border as Palestinians have ramped up protests demanding the right to return to their former homeland.

Israel's use of live fire has drawn international criticism but the Israeli government says it is protecting its borders and takes such action when protesters come too close to the border fence.

(Reporting by Rozanna Latiff in Kuala Lumpur and Nidal Al Mughrabi in Gaza; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and William Maclean)