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Friends Mourn LAX Shooting Victims

Friends and relatives gathered Sunday to mourn the two people killed in the July 4 shooting at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport, which was condemned by some as an act of terrorism.

The FBI says it still doesn't know why Hesham Mohamed Hadayet targeted the ticket area of Israel's national airline, where he gunned down Yaakov Aminov, a 46-year-old diamond jeweler, and Victoria Hen, 25, who worked behind the El Al counter.

Aminov, a father of eight with another child on the way, was remembered Sunday as a selfless man dedicated to family and faith.

"This morning we say our final shalom to Yaakov, a man who valued Jewish tradition beyond all else," Rabbi David Adatto told hundreds of mourners outside the storefront Orthodox synagogue that Aminov helped found in San Fernando Valley.

"He was my best friend, a true soul mate," said Michael Shabtai, the friend Aminov had taken to the airport on the Fourth of July.

After the service, Aminov's remains were taken to the airport where they were to be flown to Israel for burial on Monday.

Mourners gathered in the Mission Hills section of the San Fernando Valley to pay their respects to Hen.

"She was one big smile. A loving person. She loved children, all she wanted to was settle down and have children," family friend Joe Knoller said.

Many who grieved for the victims said they considered the killings an act of terrorism, though U.S. authorities have said nothing from their investigation indicated that.

"Yaakov Aminov died because he was a Jew, because a culture of hatred has been fostered," said Rabbi Aaron Tendler, one of the speakers.

Outside Groman-Eden Mortuary in Mission Hills, a few people held signs reading "Stop terrorism now" and "Vicki's murder was an act of terrorism."

"It is a very tough moment for us but we will survive. We will come through," Rabbi Samuel Ohana told mourners.

Hadayet was the fourth person in line at the El Al counter Thursday when he opened fire, killing Aminov and Hen and wounding three others, authorities said. He fired 10 or 11 bullets before he was killed by an El Al security guard.

FBI special agent Richard Garcia said Saturday it still wasn't known if Hadayet harbored anti-Israel feelings, as a former employee claimed he did. Authorities had not ruled out terrorism as a motive, but were considering the possibility that Hadayet was despondent over his personal or business affairs.

Arab Americans in the Los Angeles area have publicly condemned the killings as a crime. The Web site of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee posted a statement denouncing the attack in the "strongest possible terms."

Quietly, however, some Southern California Muslims said they fear the high-profile killing could revive the anti-Arab discrimination felt in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"We hope that people can make the distinction between one crazy person and a whole community of 6 or 7 million people in the United States," said Sabiha Khan, a spokeswoman for the Council on American Islamic Relations in Anaheim.

She praised the FBI for its careful handling of the investigation and said people across the Muslim community were speculating about Hadayet, a limousine driver who immigrated to California from Egypt 10 years ago. He lived in Irvine with his wife, Hala, and their sons Omar, 14, and Adam, 8.

Hadayet wasn't known at the major mosques in the area, according to the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles.

"We are horrified by what happened," Khan said. "We pray for the victims and their families because nobody should ever die like that."