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Troops Kill 4 in West Bank’s ‘Black Panthers’ Gang

From Associated Press

Israeli soldiers disguised as Arabs killed four members of a Palestinian gang Friday in a barbershop shoot-out in Nablus, the occupied West Bank’s largest city, Arab journalists reported.

The army confirmed that soldiers killed four members of an organization known as the Black Panthers and wounded three, who were captured. It said there were no casualties among the soldiers.

Street battles broke out after the shooting, and the army barred Jewish settlers from the area, according to witnesses and police reports.

Friday’s army raid was the second on radical Palestinian groups in Nablus in less than a month. It followed warnings by military officials of a campaign against gangs blamed for killing alleged collaborators.

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Israel Radio said the head of Israel’s Shin Bet security service told officials that 500 Palestinian guerrilla squads had been counted during the uprising.

It said the Shin Bet chief, whose name is a closely guarded secret, gave the assessment Thursday. He was quoted as saying that 170 of the groups were linked to the Fatah faction of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat and were uncovered since Arafat had publicly renounced terrorism a year ago.

Witnesses in Nablus said soldiers wearing Arab robes and Palestinian head scarfs arrived at the entrance to the Old City in a red Mercedes with West Bank license plates.

Seven men got out and fired into a barbershop about 40 yards from the Ajaj Mosque, a witness said.

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He said soldiers later carried several bodies out of the shop on stretchers. An Arab journalist said hundreds of shots were heard.

An official army statement said soldiers confronted Palestinians armed with an M-16 assault rifle and several pistols and opened fire.

An Arab doctor who arrived with an ambulance to pick up the injured said an Israeli army officer told him: “You are not going to take any casualties. . . . I killed all the Black Panthers.”

Palestinian sources identified three victims as Black Panther members Imad Nasser, Hani Tayem and Omar Arafat--all 22. The name of the fourth victim was not available.

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