Influential Hamas founder Shama dies

Posted June 10, 2011, at 9:42 p.m.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A founder of Hamas in the Gaza Strip died Friday of a stroke after decades as an influential yet little-known figure at the helm of the Palestinian militant organization. He was 76.

Muhammad Hassan Shama, revered by Hamas loyalists but nearly anonymous outside Gaza, was one of the eight founders of the Islamist group in the 1980s. After his death, Hamas publicly announced Friday for the first time that Shama had been the leader of the secretive Shura Council, its top governing body.

The identity of the council’s members is a closely guarded secret because of fears they could be targeted by Israel. The founder and first leader of Hamas, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, was killed by an Israeli airstrike in 2004.

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