BRUSSELS, Belgium -- A gunman today assassinated Naim Khader, the representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Belgium, police said.
Khader, 41, was hit by six bullets as he left his home at 9 a.m. in the suburb of Ixelles to go to his office. He was dead by the time an ambulance arrived.
Five of the bullets struck Khader in the head and one in the heart, government sources said, indicating the gunman was an expert marksman.
Khader died on the sidewalk in front of his house from where he used to walk to the PLO office on swank avenue Roosevelt in suburban Ixelles.
Police said the gunman, wearing a raincoat and carrying an umbrella fled on foot. He was first chased by a postman and then by a young man in a car, but they lost his trail. Police shortly afterwards found the raincoat and the umbrella a block away. Officers with police dogs went to the spot.
Khader was the seventh PLO representative abroad to be killed in the past 10 years. Three PLO representatives were killed in Paris, one in 1972 and two in 1978. The PLO man in Nicosia in 1973, those in London and in Koweit in 1978.
Khader was born at Zabaddeh, on the West Bank of the Jordan river. He came to Belgium after the 1967 Middle East war and married a Belgian woman.
He had a law degree of the Brussels university and had worked already unofficially for the PLO before he was appointed head of the organization's Brussels office when it was set up in 1976. He represented the PLO with the European Community as well as with the Belgian authorities.
The PLO office in Brussels issued a statement saying the assassination of Khader 'the authors of which are without any doubt the Israeli secret services, is added to the list of the numerous Palestinian victims of Zionist aggression.'
It called on 'all friends who love democracy and freedom to condemn this aggression and to support the struggle of the Palestinian people.'
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy said: 'This type of accusations is not new. It has been the same in the past, notably after the assassination of the PLO representative in Paris, Ezzedine Kalak, August 3, 1978. We know, however, that the different Palestinian movements kill each other.'
After the killing of the PLO man and his deputy in Paris in 1978, two Jordanians of Palestinian origin were arrested. They were sentenced to 15 years in jail last year.
A spokesman for the Belgian foreign ministry said: 'We condemn all violence from wherever it comes and we deplore that Brussels is no longer free from such attempts like there have been in London and Paris.'