1960: The assassins of Hazza Majali

4 comments December 31st, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1960 — just two days after they had been sentenced — Saleh Safadi, Mohammed Hindawi, Lt. Husham Dabbas, and Karim Shaqra were hanged in Amman’s Hussein Mosque Square for assassinating Jordan’s prime minister earlier that year.

The marquee casualty of Jordan’s standoff against Nasserite Egypt, Hazza Majali might have just been a footnote to the story. According to King Hussein of Jordan: A Political Life,

[i]t may be that the bomb plot which cost Hazza Majali his life was also aimed at the King himself. The first bomb, which killed the prime minister, was followed by a second explosion at the scene less than forty minutes later. Had the King followed through on his initial intention to visit the bomb site, he might well have been caught in the second blast.

Though the bombings didn’t get King Hussein, they claimed 11 other lives besides Majali’s.

The assassins’ conspiracy traced back to neighboring Syria, which at that time was (briefly) unified with Egypt as the United Arab Republic. Syria and Jordan have found plenty of reasons to bicker over the years, and the former’s alliance here with Nasser‘s pan-Arabism added a pointed ideological critique of Jordan’s throwback Hashemite dynasty.*

Syria and the UAR were busily subverting U.S.-backed Jordan, and in this venture they enjoyed dangerously considerable popular support within Jordan; Majali in particular was “regarded by some Jordanians — and particularly Palestine refugees — as a virtual tool of the Western powers.” (New York Times, Aug. 30, 1960)

So it was a dangerous situation, and King Hussein did well to escape those years un-blown-up himself.

Several weeks of brinksmanship followed Majali’s assassination, with Jordanian troops massed on the Syrian border. Matters stopped short of outright war, but Nasser, Syria, and the UAR were all explicitly accused of this operation and others at the resulting trial of the assassins in December: the plot was supposed to have originated in Damascus, been paid for in Damascus, and used bombs shipped from Damascus.

Eleven in all were condemned to death, but seven of those sentences were given in absentia to suspects who had absconded to Nasser’s dominions.

* In response to the Egypt-Syria union, the kindred Hashemite rulers of Jordan and Iraq had formed the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan. That arrangement was even shorter-lived than the UAR, because the Iraqi Hashemites were almost immediately overthrown. You can get Jordan’s official take on those perilous years here.

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Assassins,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Egypt,Execution,Hanged,History,Jordan,Murder,Public Executions,Soldiers,Syria,Terrorists,Treason

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1187: Raynald of Chatillon, by Saladin

6 comments July 4th, 2009 Headsman

On this date in 1187, Saladin dealt the Crusader Kingdom a crippling blow at the Battle of Hattin — and a fatal beheading to douchebag French knight RaymondRaynald of Chatillon after the fray.

Saladin personally administered the chop.


That’s a weight off his shoulders.

Conduct so ill comporting with Saladin‘s reputation for chivalry had been earned by Raynald’s own bad behavior.

Crusaders with a view to realpolitik saw that the Kingdom of Jerusalem had to coexist with its Muslim neighbors. Raynald (or Reynald, or Renaud) just preferred killing them.

His raids against Saladin’s caravans when the Crusader state was supposed to be at peace with the Ayyubids precipitated the war that would claim his own head — and, within three months of this date, Jerusalem itself.

The Muslim commander vowed going in to slaughter the notoriously vicious Raynald if he captured him. Here he is making good the threat in the ponderous Ridley Scott epic Kingdom of Heaven:

According to the account (sourced to Wikipedia, such as it is) of Saladin house historian Imad ad-Din al-Isfahani, an eyewitness to the event,

Saladin invited the king [Guy] to sit beside him, and when Arnat [Raynald] entered in his turn, he seated him next to his king and reminded him of his misdeeds. “How many times have you sworn an oath and violated it? How many times have you signed agreements you have never respected?” Raynald answered through a translator: “Kings have always acted thus. I did nothing more.” During this time King Guy was gasping with thirst, his head dangling as though drunk, his face betraying great fright. Saladin spoke reassuring words to him, had cold water brought, and offered it to him. The king drank, then handed what remained to Raynald, who slaked his thirst in turn. The sultan then said to Guy: “You did not ask permission before giving him water. I am therefore not obliged to grant him mercy.” After pronouncing these words, the sultan smiled, mounted his horse, and rode off, leaving the captives in terror. He supervised the return of the troops, and then came back to his tent. He ordered Raynald brought there, then advanced before him, sword in hand, and struck him between the neck and the shoulder-blade. When Raynald fell, he cut off his head and dragged the body by its feet to the king, who began to tremble. Seeing him thus upset, Saladin said to him in a reassuring tone: “This man was killed only because of his maleficence and perfidy.”

The Egyptian classic El Naser Salah el Dine, whose composition and subject matter reflect its production at the acme of Nasser-led Pan-Arabism, noticeably soft-pedals this scene, with Raynald as an over-the-top boor who challenges his captor to a duel and is slain in a fair fight. (Skip to about 35:25 in the clip below to see it, but the whole thing is well worth the watching.)

On this day..

Entry Filed under: 12th Century,Arts and Literature,Ayyubid Empire,Beheaded,Borderline "Executions",Capital Punishment,Crusader Kingdom,Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,God,History,Israel,No Formal Charge,Nobility,Notable Participants,Occupation and Colonialism,Soldiers,Summary Executions,Wartime Executions

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