Senior Fatah leader killed in s. Lebanon

Kamal Madhat, 3 bodyguards caught in explosion as they leave a Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.

palestinian leader bomb lebanon (photo credit: AP)
palestinian leader bomb lebanon
(photo credit: AP)
An explosion in southern Lebanon on Monday killed a senior Fatah official and three of his bodyguards as they were leaving a Palestinian refugee camp. The blast, apparently from a roadside bomb, struck a two-car convoy carrying Fatah's Kamal Madhat as they left the Mieh Mieh camp near the southern port city of Sidon, killing Madhat and the bodyguards, Lebanese and Palestinian security officials said. A fourth bodyguard was wounded. Madhat's car was completely gutted in the explosion that left a 16 feet (5-meter) wide crater, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The vehicle was thrown off the road into a valley. Madhat, 55, was visiting the Mieh Mieh camp to offer condolences to families of two Fatah members who were killed Saturday in a gunfight in a personal dispute in the camp. The blast was heard across Sidon. Witnesses said pieces of torn flesh were scattered near the bomb site, as ambulances and civil defense rushed to evacuate the victims. The Mieh Mieh camp and the nearby Ein el-Hilweh camp are mainly controlled by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' mainstream Fatah group. Madhat was a military, political and security aide to Abbas Zaki, a close aide to Abbas and the top Palestinian official in the country. Zaki described the killing as "cowardly." Madhat also served as a personal bodyguard to the late PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat in Beirut in the 1980s. No one claimed responsibility for the bombing, and Lebanese authorities released no official statements. It was not immediately known if Zaki could have been the target, since he had left the camp only a few hours earlier. It was also unclear if the blast was related to a reported power struggle among Fatah members in Lebanon. Madhat was known to have enemies within and outside Fatah, mainly extremist Islamic groups opposing Abbas' peace deals with Israel. Sultan Abul-Einein, a senior Fatah commander in Lebanon, described Madhat's killing as a "tragedy." He warned in a television interview that Monday's bombing could be the beginning of a "cycle" to target other Fatah officials in Lebanon. Osama Hamdan, Lebanon's representative of the Hamas, condemned Madhat's killing as "a despicable crime." He said Madhat had played "a major role" in efforts to unify rival Palestinian factions, especially between Fatah and Hamas. Several rounds of Egyptian-mediated talks between rivals Fatah and Hamas broke down last week without a deal on a national unity government. Rivalries and fighting, mainly between Fatah gunmen and extremist Islamic groups in Lebanon's refugee camps, have claimed the lives of scores of Palestinians in the past. Lebanon has 12 Palestinian refugee camps, which are off limits to authorities under a Lebanon-Palestinian deal. Some fugitives are believed to live inside the teeming Ein el-Hilweh camp, located outside Sidon.