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Islamic Jihad Leader Killed in Lebanon

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By BASSEM MROUE
The Associated Press
Friday, May 26, 2006; 3:48 PM

SIDON, Lebanon -- A car bomb Friday killed a leader of Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian militant group whose suicide bombers have defied a truce with Israel and killed 34 people in the past year, including an American.

Islamic Jihad blamed Israeli intelligence and vowed to retaliate for the attack, which killed its leader in southern Lebanon, Mahmoud Majzoub, and his brother, Nidal.

Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Saniora condemned the killings and pledged to "exert all efforts to punish the aggressors." He indicated that Israel was the primary suspect.

Islamic Jihad's representative in Lebanon, Abu Imad Rifai, vowed a harsh response and said it would come from "the brothers inside," meaning Islamic Jihad members in Gaza or the West Bank.

The militant group's No. 2, Ziad al-Nakhalah, confirmed the threat to Israel. "Islamic Jihad has far-reaching arms and can get the enemy and its institutions anywhere," the Damascus-based al-Nakhalah said in a fax to The Associated Press in Gaza.

Rifai rejected the possibility that other Palestinian or Lebanese groups could have killed Majzoub. "No one has an interest in assassinating him except the Israeli Mossad," he told the AP.

In Israel, military officials said they had heard of the bombing in media reports, but had no additional information.

Mahmoud Majzoub was leaving his apartment building in central Sidon with his brother when a bomb in a parked car was detonated by remote control, Lebanese security officials said.

Nidal Majzoub, 39, was killed instantly. Mahmoud Majzoub, 41, was rushed to a hospital and died during surgery, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The bomb consisted of 2.2 pounds of high explosives, packed for maximum impact, the officials said. It shattered the windows of several nearby apartment buildings in this port city, 25 miles south of Beirut. Lebanese police and soldiers sealed off the area and used dogs to search for more bombs.

"I rushed to the balcony after hearing the blast only to see black smoke billowing from a car," said Omran Kaddoura, a 16-year-old resident. After running down six flights of stairs to the street, he "found the two bloodied men lying on the ground in front of the car."

Mahmoud Majzoub was head of recruitment for Islamic Jihad and a member of its policy-making Shura Council. He was a Lebanese citizen; it is not uncommon for Lebanese to join Palestinian militant groups.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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