Two bodyguards killed as Abbas, Dahlan survive assassination try

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

GAZA CITY PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, selected to run for Palestinian elections, has survived an assassination attempt.

Palestinian sources said Abbas came under attack during a visit to the Gaza Strip on Sunday evening. They said two of Abbas's bodyguards were killed and four others were injured when members of Fatah's military wing opened fire toward Abbas and his security adviser, former Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan, in Gaza City.

Guards rushed Abbas into a nearby tent, pushed him to the floor and formed a cordon around him. Two of the bodyguards were struck by gunfire and were killed. Minutes later, Abbas was driven to Palestinian Authority headquarters in Gaza City, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said the shooting marked the launch of what could be a bloody power struggle to succeed the late Yasser Arafat. Arafat has been succeeded by a four-man committee, and on Sunday Abbas was chosen to run for the post of PA chairman in elections scheduled for Jan. 9.

Abbas and Dahlan denied that they were the target of an attack. They said Fatah gunmen began shooting in the air when Abbas and his delegation arrived at the tent, erected to receive those mourning the death of Arafat.

"There was no attempt to assassinate Abu Mazen," Sufian Abu Zeideh, a senior PA official, said. "Nobody aimed his weapon at Abu Mazen or anybody else."

But witnesses said Fatah gunmen aimed their weapons toward Abbas and Dahlan. They said the gunmen arrived at the tent chanting slogans such as "Abbas and Dahlan are agents for the Americans" and then opened fire.

"The Fatah people fired their weapons in all directions, including toward Abbas and Dahlan," a witness said. "They had specifically come to threaten them."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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