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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Islamic Jihad threatens to target U.S. over leader

GAZA, Feb 13 (Reuters) - The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group on Tuesday threatened to retaliate against the United States if it tried to capture its Damascus-based leader.

Washington said on Monday it would offer a $5-million reward for information leading to the capture of Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shallah, the Islamic Jihad leader. It offered the same amount for a member of Lebanese Hezbollah.

"Violent operations will target all American interests if they attempt to harm the secretary-general, Dr. Ramadan Shallah," said Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for Islamic Jihad's armed wing.

Regarded by Israel and the United States as a terrorist group, Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for a string of deadly suicide bombings in Israel, including one last month in the Red Sea resort of Eilat that killed three people. Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades also took part in the Eilat attack.

Senior Islamic Jihad leader Khaled al-Batsh said the United States decided to offer the $5-million reward to bolster an Israeli campaign against the group following the Eilat bombing.

"It (Shallah's capture) would unleash a new wave of violence and actions of legitimate resistance, and those who issued the decision will be responsible," Batsh told reporters in Gaza.

The State Department said Shallah was wanted for conspiracy to conduct the affairs of Palestinian Islamic Jihad through activities such as bombings, murder, extortions and money laundering.

It said since 1995 he has been the secretary-general and leader of group, which is headquartered in Damascus.
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