World News

Qaeda mentor health deteriorates in hunger strike

AMMAN (Reuters) - The health of Jordanian Sheikh Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi, a leading al Qaeda thinker, has deteriorated after a three-week hunger strike to protest his two year imprisonment without trial, his family said on Sunday.

Maqdisi, who was regarded as the spiritual mentor of slain al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was re-arrested in July 2005 following his acquittal at a trial of Jordanian and Saudi sympathizers of al Qaeda.

Family sources said Maqdisi, 48, who is held in solitary confinement in the intelligence headquarters, was barely able to stand on his feet and held by prison guards when they saw him on Friday during a short visit.

“His health has deteriorated. He has been on hunger strike for the last three weeks and this has begun to affect his condition,” a close family member who requested anonymity told Reuters.

Maqdisi was angry at the authorities’ refusal to allow him to attend the funeral of his father who died last month, his family said. They said he had also been subjected to beatings to try to make him recant his beliefs.

No security official was immediately available for comment.

Maqdisi and Zarqawi shared a cell block for four years between 1995 and 1999. Both were freed in an amnesty. Zarqawi later went to Afghanistan then Iraq.

U.S intelligence officials say Maqdisi is a major jihadi thinker who wields more influence over Islamist ideology than leading militants such as Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri.

A study by a private think tank of the U.S. military academy West Point last year described Maqdisi, a self-taught religious intellectual, as the most influential living Islamist thinker.