Gunmen kill Palestinian official, aides

September 16, 2006|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

JERUSALEM -- Masked gunmen shot and killed a senior official in the Palestinian intelligence service and four aides yesterday near the home of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

Palestinian officials said Maj. Gen. Jad Tayeh and the aides were in a vehicle in the Shati refugee camp, on the northern edge of Gaza City, when masked men in a sport utility vehicle cut them off and opened fire.

The attackers fled after taking weapons and cell phones from the dead, at least three of whom were described as bodyguards, as well as a briefcase containing documents, according to the intelligence service. An early report said that one of the victims was also a ranking officer in the intelligence service, but that was not immediately confirmed.

Authorities said they had opened an investigation but made no announcement about possible suspects. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

"It's a crime against the innocents. They were killed after they had performed the Friday prayer," said Gen. Mohammed Masri, a senior officer in the intelligence service.

The intelligence service is under the jurisdiction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Tayeh, who was in charge of the agency's international coordination, was affiliated with Abbas and the president's Fatah movement.

It is not known whether the attack was part of sporadic factional strife between the once-dominant Fatah and Hamas, the radical Islamist group that won control of the government after clinching parliamentary elections in January. Many of those clashes have involved gunbattles, often between members of rival security agencies.

Fatah and Hamas announced this week that they would join in a coalition government.

The move at unity government is aimed mainly at breaking a cutoff of international aid, but also could help ease some of the street violence, which has been especially severe in the Gaza Strip.

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