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Palestinian Militants Abduct, Beat Jenin Governor (REUTERS) By Wael al-Ahmad JENIN, West Bank 07/19/03 09:21 AM ET) Source: http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=3119705
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JENIN, West Bank (Reuters) - Masked Palestinians abducted the governor of the West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday and beat him in public after he tried to crack down on their militant group, witnesses said.
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The abduction highlighted the problems facing Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as he tries to rein in militants to bolster efforts to implement a U.S.-backed "road map" to peace.
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A local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has links to President Yasser Arafat´s Fatah movement and is divided over whether to accept a truce halting attacks on Israelis, confirmed his group had abducted governor Haider Irsheid.
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The masked men took Irsheid to a central square and beat him with their fists and kicked him, witnesses said. The militants then disappeared into the nearby Jenin refugee camp, a warren of narrow alleys where they can easily hide.
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"He (Irsheid) sent his men to shoot at members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and tried to assassinate others," local Brigades leader Zakariya Zubeidi told Reuters.
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He said this amounted to collaboration with Israel, and accused him of corruption. His group demanded Irsheid´s resignation and said he should be tried in a Palestinian court.
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Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr condemned the abduction as a "regrettable act" and said: "Law will be enforced. Nobody can act outside this cycle of law."
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The incident could embarrass Abbas ahead of talks on Sunday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is likely to call again for a crackdown on militants before the two leaders go to Washington for separate talks with President Bush.
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Israel regards a Palestinian crackdown on the militants as crucial to efforts to implement the road map, which is intended to end 33 months of violence and establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel in 2005.
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Abbas has vowed to punish anyone who violates a three-month truce announced by the main militant groups, but has avoided a tough crackdown which could risk civil war. Some branches of the al-Aqsa Martys Brigade have vowed to defy the cease-fire.
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Irsheid was appointed governor this year and was the deputy governor before that.
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Palestinian sources said his name had been linked to a scandal in which money intended for the Palestinian Authority in grants from donor countries went missing. He denies any wrongdoing.
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The Palestinian Authority has faced accusations in the past of mismanaging aid given by donor countries, but Abbas has vowed to carry out financial and democratic reforms.
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Sunday´s talks between Abbas and Sharon start 10 days of diplomacy in which the Palestinian premier will meet Bush in Washington on July 25 and the Israeli leader will meet him on July 29.
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Israeli diplomatic sources said on Thursday Sharon was considering releasing some Islamic militant prisoners to advance the road map, affirmed by the two prime ministers and Bush at a June 4 summit in Aqaba in Jordan.
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Sharon has freed some Palestinian prisoners in recent weeks but has refused to release members of Islamic groups that have killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings and other attacks in a nearly three-year-old uprising for statehood.
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The Palestinians want him to do so to show his commitment to peace efforts. (© Reuters 2003 07/19/03)
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