Diplomatic Briefing

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Newsline: Palestinian fugitive in mystery death at embassy in Bulgaria

A Palestinian militant wanted for a 1986 killing in Israel plunged to his death Friday from the Palestinian Embassy in Bulgaria, where he had been holed up for two months to avoid extradition, officials said. Palestinians immediately accused Israel of killing Omar Nayef Zayed, 52. Israel denied involvement and Bulgarian authorities said they had yet to determine whether he fell, jumped or was pushed from the building. Zayed was alive Friday morning when an embassy staffer found him behind the four-story building, but he died before paramedics could take him to a hospital, Bulgarian Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov said. Video footage of the site afterward showed a pool of blood near the embassy, located in a leafy, quiet neighborhood of Sofia. The Palestinian militant group PFLP initially said Zayed had been shot, but Palestinian Ambassador Ahmed al-Madbuh did not repeat those claims and Bulgarian officials insisted there were no gunshot wounds. Al-Madbuh called Zayed’s death a murder, blaming “continuing persecution by Israel.” Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said “this is not an Israeli issue” but would not comment further. Adding to the mystery, the death came hours after Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov returned from a visit to Israel and the Palestinian Authority, where he discussed a 2015 Israeli extradition request for Zayed with both the Israeli prime minister and senior Palestinian officials. Bulgarian authorities called on Zayed to surrender after Israel made the extradition request, but he refused and sought refuge at the embassy.



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