How Lebanon saw the 1984 killing of Middle East scholar and AUB President Malcolm Kerr

How Lebanon saw the 1984 killing of Middle East scholar and AUB President Malcolm Kerr
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On Jan. 18, 1984, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut (AUB) was shot twice in the back of the head and died instantly. The killers fled and were never identified. (AUB Archives)
How Lebanon saw the 1984 killing of Middle East scholar and AUB President Malcolm Kerr
2 / 3
On Jan. 18, 1984, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut (AUB) was shot twice in the back of the head and died instantly. The killers fled and were never identified. (AUB Archives)
How Lebanon saw the 1984 killing of Middle East scholar and AUB President Malcolm Kerr
3 / 3
On Jan. 18, 1984, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut (AUB) was shot twice in the back of the head and died instantly. The killers fled and were never identified. (AUB Archives)
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Updated 24 July 2020

How Lebanon saw the 1984 killing of Middle East scholar and AUB President Malcolm Kerr

How Lebanon saw the 1984 killing of Middle East scholar and AUB President Malcolm Kerr
  • Time has not eased the pain for Ann Kerr, who met her husband while they were both students at AUB
  • Court later found group that claimed responsibility for Malcolm Kerr’s murder acted as front for Hezbollah

BEIRUT: On Jan. 18, 1984, Dr. Malcolm Kerr, president of the American University of Beirut (AUB), stepped into a hallway leading to his office on the sprawling campus in the Lebanese capital. It was a rainy Wednesday morning. The civil war had been raging in the country for nine years.

Suddenly two armed men appeared, as if from nowhere, and opened fire on 52-year-old Kerr. He was shot twice in the back of the head and died instantly. The killers fled and were never identified.

In a telephone call to news agency AFP, the Islamic Jihad Organization (IJO), a Shiite militia backed by Iran, claimed responsibility for the killing. It cited the US military presence in Lebanon as the reason. American soldiers were part of a four-nation peacekeeping force created in 1982 during a US-brokered ceasefire between the Palestine Liberation Organization and Israel.

Speaking to Arab News from southern California, Kerr’s widow, Ann, recalled that terrible day, the events of which remain fresh in her memory even after 36 years.


“The grief is an ongoing thing,” she said. “You live with the loss and the loss assumes a place in your heart.”

Ann met her husband while they were both students at AUB in the 1950s. She was on a study trip from Occidental College in Los Angeles, he was studying for a master’s degree in Arabic studies. To them, AUB “represented the best of what the US had to offer,” Ann said.

Her husband, an American citizen, was born and raised in Lebanon and educated in the US. His parents had taught at AUB, so it was close to his heart. He returned to Lebanon on many occasions, eventually taking up further studies and teaching assignments at the university. An authority on the Middle East and the Arab world, in 1982 he was offered the job of president at the prestigious institution.

Ann blames Iran and Hezbollah for his murder, as the IJO is said to have been the forerunner to Hezbollah, which was formed in 1985.

“It is pretty clear that (Hezbollah was responsible) because in those days they were targeting visible westerners (such as) journalists and professors,” she said. “You might remember that David Dodge was kidnapped before Malcolm was assassinated.”


Dodge, also an American citizen, held a number of positions at AUB, including acting president before Kerr was appointed. On July 19, 1982, he was abducted from the campus and held hostage by the IJO. He was released a year later to the day, after Syria intervened.

The IJO went on to claim responsibility for a number of kidnappings, assassinations and attacks, including the 1983 bombings of French and US Marine barracks and the US embassy in Beirut. Between 1982 and 1992, 104 foreign writers, priests and journalists were kidnapped in what came to be known internationally as the Lebanon Hostage Crisis.

They included Associated Press reporter Terry Anderson, who was abducted on March 16, 1985 and held for six years and nine months, the longest time an American was held captive in Lebanon.

“Why was (Malcolm) assassinated and not kidnapped? That remains a question,” Ann said. “But we understood that they (the IJO) had not perfected the art of kidnapping yet, and did not know where to keep (hostages).”


Though the circumstantial evidence points the finger of blame at the IJO, it was not only radical Islam that posed a threat to Kerr’s safety. According to Ann, right-wing Lebanese Christian factions were “not happy” with his views on the Palestinian situation.

“At the time, everyone walked around with guns … it was a civil war,” she said.

News of Kerr’s murder spread quickly. Local media — including Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar and magazine Al-Shiraa, and the French-language weekly La Revue du Liban — as well as international news outlets such AFP and the New York Times, linked the assassination to the kidnapping of Dodge.

The day before Kerr was killed, the IJO claimed responsibility for the kidnapping of Hussein Al-Farrash, the Saudi consul general in Beirut, and threatened to kill him. He was released 66 days later following the intervention of Nabih Berri, who at the time was Lebanon’s justice minister and is now speaker of the parliament and head of the Amal Movement, an ally of Hezbollah.

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READ MORE: Warriors coach Steve Kerr recounts life in Lebanon with his father, slain AUB president Malcolm Kerr

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Two decades after Kerr’s murder, his family called for a fresh investigation into the case and a trial, in light of new information that had come to light. In February 2003, they filed a lawsuit against Iran and Hezbollah at the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

Though they did not seek damages at the time, it was reported that the court awarded them a settlement in 2018, the proceeds of which are being used to create a student endowment fund.

The District Court ruled that IJO was a name used by Hezbollah to conceal its identity. The verdict provided some degree of closure for Ann.

“The value of the trial was that it brought some resolution to my family. I think it was better to close the case,” she said.

The sense of loss, however, is something Ann continues to contend with every day.


“Each person, (especially) in a close family such as ours, responds to things differently,” she said.

“For me, I was satisfied going on with my work, which always involved international education. For my son Steve, he was starting out in his basketball career.”

Steve Kerr, who has two brothers and a sister, was born in Beirut in 1965. He is an eight-time NBA champion, winning five titles as a Chicago Bulls player and three as head coach of the Golden State Warriors.

“From birth, practically, he had a ball in his hand,” said Ann. “For him, the spirit of competitive sports was his resolution.”

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@Leila1H


Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill
Updated 16 January 2021

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill

Iranian Guard holds anti-warship ballistic missile drill
  • Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships”
  • In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard conducted a drill Saturday launching anti-warship ballistic missiles at a simulated target in the Indian Ocean, state television reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program and a US pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.
Footage showed two missiles smash into a target that Iranian state television described as “hypothetical hostile enemy ships” at a distance of 1,800 kilometers (1,120 miles). The report did not specify the type of missiles used.
In the first phase of the drill Friday, the Guard’s aerospace division launched surface-to-surface ballistic missiles and drones against “hypothetical enemy bases.” Iranian state television described the drill as taking place in the country’s vast central desert, the latest in a series of snap exercises called amid the escalating tensions over its nuclear program. Footage also showed four unmanned, triangle-shaped drones flying in a tight formation, smashing into targets and exploding.
Tensions between Washington and Tehran have increased amid a series of incidents stemming from President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Amid Trump’s final days as president, Tehran has recently seized a South Korean oil tanker and begun enriching uranium closer to weapons-grade levels, while the US has sent B-52 bombers, the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine into the region.
In recent weeks, Iran has increased its military drills as the country tries to pressure President-elect Joe Biden over the nuclear accord, which he has said America could reenter.
Iran fired cruise missiles Thursday as part of a naval drill in the Gulf of Oman, state media reported, under surveillance of what appeared to be a US nuclear submarine. Iran’s navy did not identify the submarine at the time, but on Saturday, a news website affiliated with state television said the vessel was American. Helicopter footage of the exercise released Thursday by Iran’s navy showed what resembled an Ohio-class guided-missile submarine, the USS Georgia, which the US Navy last month said had been sent to the Arabian Gulf.
Iran has missile capability of up to 2,000 kilometers (1,250 miles), far enough to reach archenemy Israel and US military bases in the region. Last January, after the US killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad, Tehran retaliated by firing a barrage of ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US troops, resulting in brain concussion injuries to dozens of them.
Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the US from Iran’s nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord.
When the US then increased sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal’s limits on its nuclear development.