Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas strongly condemned on Wednesday the assassination of a security officer in Jenin and said he has ordered PA security forces to take drastic measures to capture the perpetrators.

Col. Hisham al-Rikh, 40, a top officer with the PA’s Preventive Security Force in Jenin, was shot dead late Tuesday near the city’s refugee camp.

“We strongly condemn this despicable and cowardly crime, which is strange to the traditions and morals of our people,” Abbas said in a statement issued by his office. “We assure our people that we will deal severely with this suspicious crime.”

Rikh, who also served as head of the Popular Committee for Services in Jenin camp, was killed when a group of unidentified gunmen opened fire at his car, residents and eyewitnesses reported.

They said that the gunmen continued to fire shots toward Rikh even after he managed to escape from his car.

His bullet-riddled body was taken to Jenin Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

No group claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Jenin Gov. Talal Dweikat said that the PA security forces have launched an investigation into the killing. He vowed that the PA would do its utmost to lay its hands on the assassins and bring them to trial.

The assassination follows a massive and unprecedented clampdown by PA security forces against lawlessness and anarchy in the Jenin area in recent months.

The crackdown began after unidentified gunmen opened fire on the home of the former governor, Kadoura Musa who died a few hours later of a heart attack.

Two months ago, Fatah legislator Shami al-Shami was shot and wounded in Jenin. His attackers have still not been caught.

In April 2011, a lone gunman shot and killed Israeli- Arab actor and film producer Juliano Mer Khamis. The case has also not been solved.

Residents said Wednesday that the shooting incidents in the Jenin area were part of a power struggle between rival Fatah groups. They pointed out that one day before the assassination of the colonel, masked men distributed leaflets in the city criticizing the PA security forces and threatening to target Fatah loyalists.

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