• PALESTINE \ Nov 24, 2004
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    Three missionaries kidnapped and released
Three missionaries kidnapped and released

Meanwhile, PA security sources announced that an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei had been thwarted. They said Mujahed Nimer, 35, of the Kalandiya refugee camp south of Ramallah, was arrested last week on suspicion of planning to kill Qurei.

The sources said Nimer, who holds a senior position in one of the PA ministries, told interrogators that he was also behind shooting attacks on former security minister Hani Al-Hassan and National Security Adviser Jibril Rajoub in Ramallah earlier this year. No one was hurt in the incidents.

The sources refused to disclose the motive behind the assassination attempts. This was the first time that a Palestinian working for the PA had been arrested for plotting to kill top officials.

Qurei had resigned his position as PA Prime Minister earlier in July, in protest of Arafat's monopoly of control of Palestinian security groups, but retracted his resignation after negotiations, and a promise of a transfer of power of certain security forces to his control.

A PA legislator lashed out at Qurei on Tuesday, saying he has proved that all he wants is to remain in his job at all costs. We're back to square one, he added. What we saw in Ramallah was the best show in town. Arafat remains in control of the largest and most important security forces.

In Nablus, Fatah gunmen kidnapped three foreigners ? an American, a Briton, and an Irishman ? around midnight Friday as they were returning to their home in the Rafidiya suburb. The three were taken in a car to the nearby Balata refugee camp.

Five women accompanying the men were left unharmed.

The three, members of a Christian charity affiliated with the Union Church in the United States, arrived in Nablus three weeks ago to teach English.

They were released unharmed after two hours. Eyewitnesses said PA policemen surrounded a building where the foreigners were being held and managed to secure their release without using force. The eyewitnesses said no one was hurt or arrested during the incident.

The foreigners, who refused to speak to reporters, were taken to the home of former Nablus mayor Ghassan Shakah. The house was being guarded by armed security officers and private bodyguards.

Although no group claimed responsibility for the abduction, sources in the city said the gunmen belonged to a dissident Fatah militia. It was not clear whether the kidnappers had made any demands or what their motive was.

In another development, a prominent Palestinian columnist said he had received death threats after calling for reforms and an end to corruption. Adli Sadek, who writes for Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, said the threat was included in a letter sent to his home in Khan Yunis by an anonymous group.