PA's chief prosecutor escapes hit

Ahmed al-Mughni unhurt after bomb destroys car; PA official: Attack linked to corruption probe.

PA policemen 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
PA policemen 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian Authority Prosecutor-General Ahmed al-Mughni survived an assassination attempt when a bomb exploded in his car early Tuesday, PA security officials said. The blast ignited when Mughni got into his car in Ramallah's fashionable Masyoun neighborhood and tried to start the engine, the officials said. They added that the small device had caused heavy damage. Mughni escaped injury. "I heard an explosion from the back of the car and I ran away quickly," he said. Although no group claimed responsibility, sources close to the prosecutor-general said the attack was clearly linked to his public campaign against financial corruption in the PA. Two months ago Mughni announced that he had ordered an investigation of Muhammad Rashid (also known as Khaled Salam), who served for many years as Arafat's chief financial adviser. The probe was launched following reports that the adviser was planning to invest at least $600 million in a tourist project in Aqaba. Earlier, Mughni announced that his office was probing more than 50 cases related to financial corruption and embezzlement of public funds by PA brass. He said that in the context of the investigation, several PA officials had been arrested over the past two years, while others had managed to flee to neighboring Arab countries. Mughni has also been working hard to recover millions of dollars of public funds stolen by top PA officials since the authority's formation in 1994. One of the cases involves Hisham Makki, the former director-general of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, who is suspected of having stolen more than $20m. Makki was murdered in a Gaza City hotel in 2001, and the case remains unresolved. Another case being probed by the Prosecutor-General's Office is known as the "Egyptian cement scandal." Two Palestinian companies are suspected of having purchased cheap cement from Egypt on behalf of Israeli construction workers involved in building new homes for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. And in a recently opened case, the prosecutor-general ordered an investigation into allegations that senior PA officials were involved in flooding Palestinian markets with expired food and medicine. A PA security official told The Jerusalem Post that Tuesday's assassination attempt was "directly linked" to the corruption probes. "Looks like someone or some parties are trying to intimidate the prosecutor-general," the official said. "Apparently they have good reason to be afraid." Mughni refused to blame any party for the attempt on his life, saying he preferred to wait until the end of the investigation launched by the PA security forces in Ramallah. Mughni was kidnapped briefly by Hamas militiamen when he visited the Gaza Strip in August 2007, and then released unharmed. He said the kidnapping was part of Hamas's pressure on him to quit his job. Hamas spokesmen said then that the prosecutor-general had been detained for questioning on suspicion that he was trying to damage files related to senior Fatah officials suspected of financial corruption. Following Tuesday's attack, the Palestinian Lawyers' Union declared a one-day strike and called on the PA security forces to do their utmost to apprehend those responsible. Supreme Court Judge and Palestinian Judicial Council chairman Issa Abu Sharar strongly condemned the assassination attempt, saying it was designed to paralyze the work of the prosecution and the courts in the PA territories.