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Gaza police chief kidnapped, freed

July 17, 2004

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GAZA, July 16: Palestinian gunmen abducted the Gaza Strip's police chief in a highway ambush on Friday, holding him for three hours until President Yasser Arafat agreed to meet their anti-corruption demands, a senior official said.

The Jenin Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for kidnapping Ghazi al-Jabali in one of the boldest challenges to Arafat's authority by Palestinians seeking security and governmental reforms.

The attack on Jabali's convoy on Gaza's coastal road also underscored concerns the area, where Israel says militants are trying to seize power from the Palestinian Authority, could slip deeper into chaos after a planned pullout of Israeli soldiers.

"(Jabali) is now under the protection of (Preventive Security chief) Rashid Abu Shbak and has been released," the official said, without giving details of the police chief's condition.

Arafat, the official said, agreed to the kidnappers' demands to dismiss Jabali and put him on trial for suspected corruption. The Palestinian leader had sent a representative to negotiate with the group in El Bureij refugee camp south of Gaza City.

After his release, Jabali was taken to police headquarters in Gaza City. It was unclear whether he was under arrest. Two of Jabali's bodyguards were wounded and the rear window and tyres of a jeep blown out during what a Palestinian security man at the scene said had been a volley of bullets from more than 10 gunmen who attacked the motorcade.

"We gave three years to the Palestinian Authority to carry out reforms. We waited a long time. But they didn't do anything. We are doing this in our way," Abu Iyad, a spokesman for the brigades, said. -Reuters