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Palestinian Militant Escapes From Prison Bus

A top Palestinian car thief accused of planting a bomb in the bedroom of a senior Israeli naval officer escaped from a prison bus in northern Israel on Sunday, an official said. It was the second time Muhammad Abu Jamous Salman had escaped from custody.

Salman, who was charged with attempted murder, was handcuffed and shackled by the ankles to another prisoner, yet he got out of the locked and guarded bus, prisons spokeswoman Orit Messer-Harel said.

"He climbed out of a high, narrow window in the prisoners' compartment," she told The Associated Press. "We don't yet know how he got out of the leg chains and handcuffs."

The bus was taking Salman, who was from the West Bank town of Tulkarem, to an Israeli military court in the West Bank where he was to be tried. He escaped at a major junction on the road between Haifa and Nazareth.

Large numbers of police, backed by a helicopter, hunted for the fugitive, but hours later he had not been caught.

Salman was a leading car thief, operating in the towns of central Israel and taking the stolen cars across the border into the West Bank, Messer-Harel said.

In 2001 Salman was sentenced to five years in jail for his car stealing operation, but he escaped from police custody. When he was caught again in November, it was on a charge of planting a bomb in the bedroom of a naval captain in the central Israeli town of Ramat Hasharon. The officer discovered the bomb when he got up in the morning and disposed of it before it went off.

The prisons service appointed a senior officer to investigate the escape. Ten guards from the prisoner escort unit were transferred to other duties for the duration of the inquiry.