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Arafat chaos

by: Larry James - Last updated: 2004-11-15

Yasser Arafat

Yasser Arafat

A shooting at a tent set up for mourners of Yasser Arafat in Gaza City has left at least one security guard dead and five others injured. The gunfire erupted just as Mahmoud Abbas, the man who succeeded Mr Arafat as head of the PLO arrived at the tent.

The shooting went on for several minutes as Mahmoud Abbas arrived late in the day at a tent set up to mourn Yasser Arafat in Gaza City. Witnesses said gunfire started about five minutes after Mr. Abbas arrived.

Associated Press Television News pictures showed a group of about 20 men entering the mourning tent where Mr Abbas, former Palestinian security chief Mohammed Dahlan and other key Palestinian leaders had come to mourn.

The gunmen, clad in green, shouted "Abbas and Dahlan are agents for the Americans." Gunfire then tore through the tent.

Mr Abbas was hustled into a corner and thrown to the ground by his bodyguards as frightened mourners fled. He was quickly taken away from the scene.

There have been widespread fears that Mr. Arafat's death could trigger an outbreak of chaos and lawlessness.

Senior Palestinian leaders close to Yasser Arafat have moved quickly to ensure a calm transition of power prior to elections, now scheduled to be held by January 9. Mahmoud Abbas has assumed leadership of the PLO, but he has little grassroots support and is not popular among militant Palestinians who oppose his rejection of the use of violence to achieve political ends.

Sunday's clash underscores fears that factional violence in the Gaza Strip could spread and undermine the interim collective leadership of Palestinian moderates who are leading Palestinians towards elections for a successor to Yasser Arafat.

Story supplied by: VOAnews