Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gunman Had Lost Savings, Dream before Shooting

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Gunman Had Lost Savings, Dream before Shooting

Article excerpt

Ali Hassan Abu Kamal, an English teacher who favored expensive suits, felt out of place in the impoverished Gaza Strip and dreamed of someday emigrating to the United States.

So he saved for a lifetime, tutored anyone who could pay him, suffered indignity and even injury in his harsh land - and slowly amassed several hundred thousand dollars.

In December, he tried to make his dream come true, flying to the United States with his money. And then, somehow, his fortune of $300,000 was gone. He called his wife on Sunday. No, he told her, he could not pay his son's tuition. He took the elevator to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, muttered something about Egypt, and opened fire with a .38-caliber Beretta automatic handgun on the outdoor deck. Seven tourists were shot, one fatally, before he shot himself to death. A day after the attack, the Empire State Building was fitted with an airport-style baggage scanner and two metal detectors. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani blamed the shootings on laws that allowed the man to buy a gun just weeks after he came to America. Family members said Monday that they didn't know how Abu Kamal, 69, lost his life savings but that the loss appeared to have made something snap in the stern teacher. The widow of the gunman said Monday in Gaza that her husband was not politically motivated but in despair over having been cheated out of his money. She said he traveled to the United States in December seeking a financier for a new investment company. "My husband is not a terrorist, he was just hopeless," Amireh Abu Kamal, 55, said. "He was aged, he had nothing to do with politics, or terrorism, or crime." In conservative Gaza, Abu Kamal was considered a flamboyant man. He felt more comfortable conversing in English - he spoke it without any trace of an accent - than in his native Arabic. Abu Kamal, dapper with a salt-and-pepper moustache, often felt out of place in impoverished, provincial Gaza City. "It was his dream to live in the States because he felt he wanted to be in a place where people would understand him," said his son-in-law, Marwan Abu Samra. "I think a man that age cannot accept that he loses more than $300,000 after 50 years of work," he said. In 1992, he was abducted by Muslim militant vigilantes who broke his legs and an arm in several days of severe beatings. In graffiti painted on walls, they accused him of smoking hashish and drinking alcohol in violation of religious commandments. Abu Kamal was a teacher for some 50 years, both at Gaza City schools and as a private tutor who, over the years, gave remedial classes to hundreds of sons and daughters of well-to-do Gazans. He was known as the best English tutor in Gaza, a reputation that enabled him to charge $15 an hour - more than twice the going rate. …

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