'We tried to kill Carter and Blair'

Head of al-Qaida-inspired group in Gaza also says his supporters planning to launch attacks on Hamas.

carter hand 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
carter hand 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
The leader of an al-Qaida-inspired group in the Gaza Strip revealed on Sunday that his men recently tried to assassinate former US president Jimmy Carter and Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair. Mahmoud Taleb, a former commander of Hamas's armed wing, Izzadin Kassam, also threatened that his supporters were planning to launch attacks on Hamas. Taleb, who is wanted by Hamas's security forces, has been in hiding for more than two years. Several attempts by Hamas to arrest him have failed, prompting the movement to detain many of his friends and relatives. A veteran journalist in the Gaza Strip described Taleb as the Palestinian Osama bin Laden. The journalist said that Taleb's group was seeking to establish an Islamic "emirate" in the Gaza Strip. Last month, Hamas's security forces killed Abdel Latif Moussa, founder and head of a similar fundamentalist group called Jund Ansar Allah. Moussa was killed along with 30 other Palestinians, most of them his supporters, during a standoff in the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. Hamas officials believe that Taleb's group, which is called Jaljalat (Thunder), was behind last week's bomb explosions outside two government-controlled security institutions in Gaza City. The attacks, they said, were apparently designed to avenge the crackdown on Jund Ansar Allah. Gaza Strip sources said that Jaljalat consists of dozens of former Hamas militiamen who left because of their movement's move toward "moderation." Taleb, who is better known in the Gaza Strip by his nom de guerre Abu Mutasem al-Maqdisi, walked out of Hamas when the movement decided to participate in the Palestinian Legislative Council election that was held in January 2006. In a recent e-mail message to the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Taleb declared that his loyalists considered Osama bin Laden to be the "emir" and "guardian" of all Muslims. "We don't belong to al-Qaida organizationally, but we follow their ideology," Taleb wrote. "We pray to Allah that we will become part of them. They are our brothers and it's our duty to support them." Taleb said he was aware of the fact that he had become No. 1 on Hamas's list of wanted men. He claimed that Hamas was also preventing his followers from launching terrorist attacks on Israel. "They [Hamas] confiscated much of our weapons and ammunition," he added. "Hamas also arrested many of our warriors upon their return from jihad missions." He also disclosed that his men had planned to kill Carter and Blair, both of whom he dubbed "infidels," during their recent visits to the Gaza Strip. "The hands of Carter and Blair are stained with Muslim blood," he said. "It was our duty to kill the two." Taleb said that Hamas foiled the assassination plots and arrested the men who had set out to carry them out.