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Militant, Once Reported Dead, Is Arrested

April 15, 2002|From Associated Press

JERUSALEM — The Israeli military said it has arrested a top militant, the leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in the northern part of the West Bank, a week after he was reported killed in an explosion in a refugee camp.

Nasser Awais, 32, was arrested in the village of Tubas, the military announced Saturday.

Awais was reported killed April 5 when an explosives belt he was wearing--equipment of a suicide bomber--exploded prematurely during fighting with Israeli troops in the northern city of Nablus. The news of his death came from a spokesman for the Al Aqsa group, which is linked to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

After Awais' reported arrest, an Al Aqsa source said Awais had survived the fighting in Nablus. The militia's leaders told the media that Awais had died because they thought that Awais was the target of the Israeli invasion in Nablus and that the incursion might stop if Israel thought he was dead, said the source, who declined to give his name.

Awais would be one of the highest-ranking militants captured during the Israeli offensive in the West Bank, which began March 29 in response to a series of bloody Palestinian suicide bomb attacks.

Awais lived in the Balata refugee camp next to Nablus and controlled the powerful armed faction which took responsibility for many attacks against Israelis.

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