West Bank Gunmen Move from Petty Crime to Organized Extortion

[AP/International Herald Tribune] One Palestinian merchant sold his shops and is preparing to emigrate after gunmen tried to extort $12,500 from him. Another entrepreneur ended up in the hospital with severe beating injuries after refusing to pay up. Blackmail of wealthy business people is the latest tactic of some Palestinian militants, who have increasingly turned to crime to fund their armed groups. The extortionists often have ties to the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, a violent offshoot of Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, or even serve in the security forces. At least 30,000 Palestinians applied for immigration papers at foreign representative offices in Ramallah in the past year, said Bassem Khoury, head of the Palestinian Federation of Industries. Canada, Egypt, and Arab Gulf countries are popular destinations.

2007-06-01 01:00:00

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