Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Angered by preacher's death, Hamas protesters stand against Abbas

KOBAR, West Bank (AP) -- Thousands of angry Hamas loyalists marched Sunday at the funeral of a Muslim preacher who died in Palestinian custody, turning the ceremony into a rare show of defiance against President Mahmoud Abbas.


Relatives of Hamas preacher Majed Barghouti mourn during his funeral in the West Bank village of Kobar.

The demonstration was an unusual sight in the West Bank, where Abbas' Palestinian Authority have become increasingly autocratic since his Hamas rivals seized power in the Gaza Strip in June.

Since then, police there have cracked down on protests perceived to challenge the rule of Abbas, who heads Fatah.

Some 3,000 Hamas loyalists crowded the village of Kobar, carrying the body of Majed Barghouti, who died Friday in a lockup run by intelligence officials.

Mourners waved the green flags of the militant Muslim group as they carried Barghouti's body, boldly chanting in support of Hamas and its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, a group banned in the West Bank.

At a separate march for women, mourners wrapped green Hamas bandannas around their headscarves and loudly condemned Abbas' intelligence chief, Tawfik Tirawi, whom they blame for Barghouti's death.

"Tirawi, you are a coward, you are the Americans' deputy," the women chanted. "We will crush your head, collaborator," they said.

Tirawi did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.
Thomas Braun, Lima, Peru.

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