Gaza blast kills leading militant

A SENIOR Palestinian militant from a radical Islamist group was killed overnight when his car exploded outside Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City in an attack blamed on Israel.

Hundreds of supporters promised revenge at the funeral of Mohammed Jamil al-Nemnem, 27, a senior commander of the Army of Islam, a group that espouses an al-Qaeda-like ideology.

A senior member of the group gave a speech praising Nemnem as its number two after Mumtaz Doghmush, the suspected mastermind of the 2007 kidnapping of British journalist Alan Johnston.

Another three people were wounded when the car exploded, according to Adham Abu Selmiya, the spokesman for emergency services in the Hamas-run health ministry.

The cause of the explosion, which was heard throughout Gaza City, was not immediately clear, but the Hamas-run interior ministry blamed Israel.

Speaking on television, interior minister Ihab al-Ghussein said “investigations show that the explosion was caused by missile fire from an Israeli drone”.

The ministry said the “civilian vehicle was targeted on Wednesday morning as it passed by the local security services authority in central Gaza”.

Witnesses at the scene, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they saw warplanes in the area but no missiles, and that the explosion appeared to have been caused by a bomb inside the car.

Israeli officials declined to comment.

The Army of Islam is one of the more radical armed groups in Gaza and took part in the capture of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in June 2006, along with Hamas and another small hardline faction, the Popular Resistance Committees.

Hamas says it severed ties with the Army of Islam after the group seized Johnston in March 2007. Hamas secured the BBC reporter’s release nearly four months later after it had seized control of Gaza.

Hamas has occasionally clashed with the Army of Islam and other radical groups.

In August 2009, Hamas police stormed a Gaza mosque, killing a radical sheikh and 23 of his followers after he declared an Islamic emirate in the impoverished territory and his followers brandished weapons in public.

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