A Palestinian terrorist group announced that one of its officers was killed in the initial U.S. missile attacks on Iraq.

The Palestinian Liberation Front, headquartered in Baghdad, said in a statement from Lebanon that 1st Lt. Ahmed Walid Raguib al-Baz “fell as a martyr facing the American air raids on Iraq.”

“His martyrdom illustrates the links between” Palestinians and Iraqis, the group said, according to Agence France-Presse.

Known for its seizing of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and murder of a Jewish American passenger, the PLF is one of several terrorist organizations that maintain offices in Baghdad, according to the U.S. State Department.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said in his speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5 that “Baghdad trains Palestine Liberation Front members in small arms and explosives.”

The group’s leader, known as Abu Abbas, has been on the run from authorities since the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking. He returned to the Gaza Strip after the Oslo agreement and is believed to have fled to Iraq due to Israeli crackdowns on militants in the disputed territories.

The PLF is a primary channel for Saddam Hussein’s payouts to Palestinian families that lose a member in the Intifada, or uprising, against Israel.

Saddam gives $25,000 to the family of a suicide bomber and $10,000 to other families, the PLF says. The group claims Saddam has contributed an estimated $35 million since September 2000.

The slain PLF officer al-Baz was employed as a taxi driver with a Jordan-based company. He had stopped at a roadside rest area about 190 miles west of Baghdad when he was struck by a missile from a helicopter while using a satellite phone, Agence France-Presse said.

The attack reportedly occurred just after midnight yesterday, said a colleague, Akram Abu Samaha.

Al-Baz, 34, had a house in Baghdad but moved with his family to Amman, Jordan, in recent weeks ahead of the anticipated war. Born in Jenin, in the West Bank, al-Baz was married with an infant son, family members said.

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