Saturday, October 12, 2002

Palestinian Troops Seek Arab Killer of Colonel
Thousands of Palestinians, mainly members of the security forces, demanded an end to internal divisions among Palestinians at a funeral march today for a police colonel killed by a group led by a Hamas militant.

The marchers demanded that Hamas hand over the killers of the colonel, Rajeh Abu Lehiya, whose shooting on Monday was claimed by the Hamas militant Imad Akel. Hamas leaders said the Islamic movement was not involved in the death.

"We expect Hamas leaders to help defuse the current tension by helping to bring the killers to justice," said Samir al-Mashharawi, a senior security official and the leader of Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction.

Mr. Akel said his group killed Colonel Abu Lehiya to avenge the death of Mr. Akel's brother, one of three Palestinians who died in clashes with Palestinian police forces a year ago. At the time, the colonel led anti-riot forces that were involved in scuffles with protesters demonstrating in support of Osama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda.

Hamas leaders denied shielding the colonel's killers, and said the killing was a feud between two families. "We are against assassinations and we are against internal fighting," said Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior Hamas leader.