Four Killed in Fight Between Supporters and Opponents of Abu Nidal
TYRE, Lebanon (AP) _ Fighting erupted Sunday in a Palestinian refugee camp between rival factions of the guerrilla group led by terrorist mastermind Abu Nidal, leaving at least four people dead and 15 wounded, police said.
The fighting broke out around midnight at the Rashidiyeh refugee camp, and continued until 9 a.m. when guerrillas from Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Palestine Liberation Organization intervened.
Supporters and opponents of Abu Nidal - representing rival wings of his Fatah-Revolutionary Council - fought in the narrow alleys of the shantytown with mortars, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, according to police and Palestinian sources.
The showdown was the bloodiest in Lebanon between the two factions since an anti-Abu Nidal mutiny began in the Fatah-Revolutionary Council ranks three years ago.
Rashidiyeh, about 50 miles south of Beirut, houses 18,500 Palestinians registered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, as well as a few thousand unregistered refugees.
The sources, requesting anonymity, said Abu Nidal’s opponents, backed by fighters of the PLO’s largest faction, Fatah, occupied a school run by UNRWA, which cares for Palestinian refugees.
The three-story school building overlooks the main position held by Abu Nidal’s loyalists.
The Abu Nidal opponents demanded that his supporters surrender or risk being dislodged by force, the sources said.
Forty Abu Nidal loyalists surrendered after the mediation of representatives of other PLO groups. The Fatah-Revolutionary Council is outside the PLO, which brings together nine Palestinian groups.
The fighting flared up after the shooting death in Rashidiyeh Saturday of Omar Hamadeh, an Abu Nidal loyalist who was Tyre regional commander of the Fatah-Revolutionary Council. His bodyguard, Mohammed Meri, was wounded in the shootout with fighters from the Fatah group.
On Friday, a PLO official was shot to death at his home in Rashidiyeh. No group has claimed responsibility, but a PLO statement blamed the killing on Israeli collaborators seeking to provoke clashes between Arafat loyalists and opponents in the camps.
Fatah-Revolutionary Council and Fatah are at odds because of a bitter feud over policy between Abu Nidal, whose real name is Sabri al-Banna, and Arafat.
The dispute within the Fatah-Revolutionary Council began in 1987 shortly after Abu Nidal moved his headquarters from Syria to Libya.
Abu Nidal opponents and PLO officials have said that Abu Nidal had 22 close aides gunned down at his base in Libya. The killings followed a meeting of the group’s ruling politburo and guerrilla commanders.
About 300 Fatah-Revolutionary Council guerrillas fled from Libya to Algeria, forming an opposition group led by Abdul-Rahman Issa, a member of the politburo, and Atef Abu Bakr, the group’s spokesman.
Issa was wounded in an assassination attempt in Algiers earlier this year that was blamed on Abu Nidal.
Most of the Abu Nidal opponents have infiltrated to Lebanon in the past year.
Abu Nidal is believed to be in Libya, despite reports that Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi was seeking his ouster in order to distance himself from international terrorism.
A U.S. State Department report last year described Abu Nidal as the world’s most dangerous terrorist.
It blamed his group for 34 terrorist attacks in 20 countries since he split from the PLO in 1973. At least 900 people were killed or wounded in these attacks, the report said.