NABLUS, West Bank – Palestinian militants beat and abducted the Palestinian governor of the West Bank town of Jenin (search) as he drove through the city center Saturday, witnesses and security sources said.
The local leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade (search), Zakariye Zubeydi, said the group was holding governor Haider Irsheid (search) and accused him of being an Israeli collaborator who "has been involved in many crimes against our people."
Zubeydi demanded the Palestinian Authority put Irsheid on trial.
A Palestinian security source said militants had been angered when security forces in Jenin were sent to arrest an Al Aqsa gunman in the refugee camp.
Witnesses said gunmen pulled 50-year-old Irsheid from his van and beat him with hands and gun butts before bundling him into another vehicle and driving off toward the city's refugee camp.
Security sources identified the men as members of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group loosely affiliated with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement.
Zubeydi said Palestinian security officials had asked, on behalf of Arafat, for Irsheid's release.
"We respect Arafat and his orders, but this guy must be held accountable and put on trial for his crimes," he said.
Israeli is demanding the Palestinians disarm militant groups as a condition of the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan -- something the Palestinian Authority is reluctant to do for fear of triggering a civil war.
Al Aqsa has been blamed for several small-scale attacks on Israelis since the main Palestinian militant groups declared a cease-fire on June 29 as part of peace moves with Israel. Although Fatah signed up to the truce, Al Aqsa is loosely organized and leaders of some branches refused to honor it.