Assassination of King Abdullah of Jordan

Why was King Abdullah of Jordan assassinated in 1951?

King Abdullah, alone of all the Arab leaders, was a moderate in the eyes of the West. He even stood for peace with Israel, and would actually have signed a separate peace agreement but for the Arab League’s militant opposition. On account of this, and because of his dream for a Greater Syria comprising Jordan, Syria, and Iraq under the Hashemite dynasty, many Arab countries distrusted Abdullah.


On July 20, 1951, while visiting the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, King Abdullah was assassinated by a Palestinian extremist afraid that the old king would make a separate peace with Israel. The gunman fired three fatal bullets into the King's head and chest. Abdullah's grandson,Hussein Ibn Talal (King of Jordan from 1953 to 1999) was at his side and grappled with the assailant until he was shot himself. A medal that had been pinned to Hussein's chest at his grandfather's insistence deflected the bullet and saved his life.

King Abdullah was one of three relatively moderate Arab leaders who have been targeted forassassination because of their views. Arab Middle East politics has been dominated by extremistswhose hate is so strong that they will kill their own leaders to prevent any progress towarda peaceful solution with Israel. This was a political act, not the act of a lone madman.

The assassin was Mustapha Shukri Usho, a Jerusalem tailor, and a member of the Arab Dynamite Squad involved in Arab-Jewish fighting. Ten conspirators were accused of plotting the assassination and were brought to trialin Amman. The prosecution named Colonel Abdullah Tell, ex-Military Governor of Jerusalem, and Dr. Musa Abdullah Husseini as the chief plotters of "the most dastardly crime Jordan ever witnessed". Jerusalem sources added that Col. Tell had been in close contact with the Ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, and his adherents in Arab Palestine.

The court sentenced six men to death but found the other four not guilty. The death sentence was given in absentia to Col. Tell, and Musa Ahmed Ayubi, a former vegetable merchant, both of whom had fled to Egypt soon after King Abdullah's slaying. The most prominent of those convicted was Dr. Musa Abdulla Hussein, with Ph.D.s from the Universities of London and Berlin, who had taken part in the Arab-Jewish fighting in 1949 and was a cousin of Haj Amin El Husseini. He was the only one who pleaded guilty to the charges against him. The others sentenced to death were Abed Okke, cattle merchant, his brother Zakariya, also a cattle merchant and butcher, and Abdul Qadir Farhat, a coffee-house keeper - all from Jerusalem.

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