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THE HUNT FOR AL QAEDA

Bomb Kills Islamist Allegedly Tied to Al Qaeda

March 02, 2003|From Associated Press

SIDON, Lebanon — An Egyptian man with purported links to Al Qaeda was killed Saturday when a bomb exploded at Lebanon's largest Palestinian refugee camp, Palestinian and Lebanese officials said.

The man, an Islamic activist and member of a small extremist Palestinian group, died instantly when the bomb, which was inside a car, detonated outside a small restaurant he owned in the Ein el Hilwa camp on the outskirts of this southern port city.

Officials first identified the 39-year-old man as Farouk Masri but later said his real name was Mohammed Abdel-Hamid Shanouha. They said he had several aliases.

The bomb went off as Shanouha emerged from the Al Nour mosque, where he prayed each morning, and crossed the street toward his restaurant, the officials said on condition of anonymity. Two Palestinian bystanders were wounded, and several houses were damaged.

Palestinian officials said that Shanouha belonged to a small Palestinian extremist group called the Islamic Jihadi Movement and that he was among Islamic guerrillas who fought Russian troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Sheik Jamal Khattab, a Muslim cleric who heads the group and represents various Islamic factions in the Ein el Hilwa camp, accused Israel's intelligence service, Mossad, of assassinating Shanouha.

"The incident coincided with the passing of an [Israeli] reconnaissance plane, which leads us to believe that the Israeli Mossad is behind the bombing," Khattab told reporters.

Several witnesses reported hearing a plane's drone throughout the night and until the bombing.

Khattab said that the car carrying the bomb came from outside the camp and that its driver parked near the mosque Friday evening, saying he was going to buy cigarettes at a nearby shop but never returning.

Lebanese security officials confirmed the bombing and said Shanouha was close to Al Qaeda.

The incident was the most serious in a recent series of bombings and killings at the notoriously lawless camp, which is home to about 75,000 Palestinians.

The camp is run by rival armed Palestinian groups, with Lebanese soldiers manning checkpoints outside.

The camp is believed to shelter numerous Islamic militants wanted by Lebanese authorities, including members of Asbat al-Ansar, a Palestinian extremist group on the U.S. State Department's list of terrorist organizations.

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