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One year later, Palestinians still holding out on killings of guards

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, October 18, 2004

The Palestinian Authority continues to withhold cooperation with the United States in its effort to capture those responsible for a bombing that killed three U.S. embassy guards just over a year ago.

Officials said that despite numerous appeals, PA security chiefs have not provided the United States with suspects or information regarding the Oct. 15, 2003 bombing of a U.S. convoy outside Gaza City. The convoy was transporting U.S. embassy staffers and visitors to interview Palestinians for a Fulbright scholarship.

[On Monday, Israel's military killed six Palestinian insurgents, four of whom crossed into Israel from the Gaza Strip, Middle East Newsline reported. At least two of the infiltrators were said to have carried guns, ammunitions and explosive belts.]

"We haven't seen them demonstrate either the will, much less the capacity, to investigate the case seriously," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Oct. 15. "We have seen statements from time to time by Palestinian officials that they know who did it. And if that's true, then they should take immediate action to arrest and prosecute whoever did it."

Officials said the State Department has determined that the bombers came from the ruling Fatah movement, led by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. They said the department received what officials termed credible information that the bombing plot was planned by Fatah operatives in August 2003 and approved in principle by Arafat.

The American casualties were identified as security guards for the private contractor DynCorp. DynCorp has a contract with the State Department to help protect embassies and staffers around the world.

In February 2004, the PA held a one-day trial for four Palestinians accused of participating in the bombing. Later, the PA High Court ordered the detainees released and they haven't been seen since.

"At the time that they made those arrests," Boucher said, "we expressed certain skepticism that they had arrested the people who were really responsible for these crimes, and felt that there was further serious investigation and action that needed to be taken."

The United States has offered a $5 million reward for information that would lead to the capture of the bombers. But so far officials did not report any breakthrough.

Officials said the State Department has told the PA that U.S. officials would not enter the Gaza Strip until the bombing investigation was resolved.

The department has also warned the PA that Washington would not provide aid to the Arafat regime unless the real killers of the Americans were captured and prosecuted.


Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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