Fri, Sep 09, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Militants further agenda with Arafat killing

CORRUPTION The death of the former security chief was payback for years of alleged graft, but it also reflected the weakness of the Palestinian Authority

THE GUARDIAN , EREZ CROSSING, GAZA STRIP

A masked Palestinian militant stands next to a group of children following a rally by supporters of the Fatah movement celebrating the Israeli pullout from Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, at the Rafah refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, on Wednesday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas vowed to hunt down the killers of a powerful former security chief, whose gangland-style slaying on Wednesday laid bare Gaza's raging power struggles.

PHOTO: AP

The Palestinian leadership was facing a major challenge to its authority in Gaza on Wednesday night after a former security chief and relative of former Palestinian president Yasser Arafat was dragged from his home by dozens of armed men and shot dead.

Moussa Arafat was shot in the head more than 20 times after being forced into the street in his pyjamas by gunmen who blamed him for corruption and for collaborating with Israelis. They also kidnapped his son, Manhal Arafat, and said they would execute him if they decided he was also implicated in corruption.

The attack was further evidence of the freedom with which armed groups act in Gaza, at a time when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas hopes to demonstrate to the world the Palestinian Authority's ability to run areas under its control.

While the Palestinian Authority has large numbers of police officers in the Gaza Strip, it has little credibility when compared to the armed groups. Sources close to Abbas said he had no choice but to take strong action, particularly because the gunmen were affiliated to his own Fatah faction.

The gunmen, from the Popular Resistance Committees, a group mostly from Fatah but also including Islamic militants, arrived in a group of around 100 at the Arafat home in Gaza City. They fired bullets and missiles at the house and Arafat's bodyguards returned fire.

After around 30 minutes the gunmen overwhelmed the bodyguards and were able to blow up the gate to the house. Arafat was taken out to the street and shot in the head more than 20 times.

It is still not clear whether the son, who is in his 30s, is still alive.

Palestinian Minister for Prisoner Affairs Sufian Abu Zaida said that the Gaza branch of the Arafat family had few friends.

"People may be against the way he was killed but Moussa Arafat represented the worst examples of corruption among those who abused their power for their own personal gain," he said.

Popular Resistance Committees spokesman Mohammed Abdel Al said the operation: "Was a result of Moussa Arafat's years of corruption and collaboration with the Israelis."

We are questioning his son and if he is found guilty, we will kill him too," he said.

He said he would produce a dossier detailing Arafat's guilt within a couple of days.

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