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Jenin Governor Released Following Intervention by Arafat - 2003-07-19

A Palestinian militant group says it has released the kidnapped Palestinian governor of Jenin after Palestinian President Yasser Arafat intervened.

Haider Irsheid was abducted earlier Saturday in broad daylight by members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. He was beaten in the street, then driven to the city's refugee camp where he was briefly held.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is an armed offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.

The local leader of Al Aqsa, Zakariye Zubeydi, said the governor was released after Mr. Arafat directly ordered his release. He said the group does not question Mr. Arafat's instructions.

There is no information on the condition of Mr. Irsheid at the time of his release.

Earlier, militant leaders accused the governor of collaborating with Israel and demanded that he be tried by the Palestinian Authority for what the militants called "crimes" against the Palestinian people.

Last month, Al Aqsa joined other key Palestinian militant organizations in agreeing to a three-month truce against attacks on Israelis.

Saturday's incident comes amid reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is considering releasing some Palestinian prisoners who are members of Islamic Jihad and Hamas. Israeli newspaper reports Friday said Mr. Sharon is considering freeing as many as 60 members of those militant groups who have not been implicated in terrorist attacks against Israel.

Mr. Sharon and Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas plan to meet Sunday to discuss peace efforts. Both men are preparing for separate talks with President Bush in Washington next week.