Palestinians interfering with U.S. probe of Gaza bombing

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

U.S. officials say the Palestinian Authority is blocking its nvestigation of an attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in which three American security officers were killed.

Officials said the PA failed to provide FBI investigators with sufficient access to the bombing site. Furthermore PA authorities allowed pedestrians to enter the scene of the attack and destroy evidence.

So far, the PA has arrested eight suspects from the Jabalya refugee camp, near which the attack took place, Middle East Newsline reported. The suspects were said to have been members of the Popular Resistance Committee, which took responsibility for the bombing on Wednesday, as well as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The United States remains dissatisfied with security cooperation of the Palestinian Authority and has banned visits by U.S. officials to the Gaza Strip.

U.S. officials said the travel ban came in wake of a determination that the PA has failed to cooperate with the investigation. Officials said PA cooperation in the investigation has been insufficient and those arrested do not appear linked to the bombing.

"Everybody has promised they will help," an official said. "In most cases, the promises have just remained promises."

The Preventive Security Apparatus, officials said, has been the most helpful to the five-member FBI team of the 13 PA security agencies.

"The Palestinian Authority has got to create an empowered Palestinian prime minister who can have security forces that are unified and then these security forces can begin to break up these terrorist groups, and we can get back on track on the road map," a senior U.S. administration official said.

Most of the suspects were said to have confessed to participating in the bombing attack. But U.S. officials said the attack was believed to have been ordered by Palestinians connected to leading members of the PA.

The U.S. embassy has placed a travel ban on government personnel to the Gaza Strip. Officials said the ban, which they said won't affect U.S. aid, will be indefinite and comes as the embassy reviews security arrangements in the PA areas.

On Monday, the FBI delegation met PA security officials at the Israeli-patrolled Erez terminal in the northern Gaza Strip. No details of the meeting were released.

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