Abbas forces free Hamas official held for 19 days

NABLUS, West Bank Sat Jul 21, 2007 11:39am EDT

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NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas released a top Hamas official on Saturday after holding him in custody for 19 days, sources from Hamas and the security forces said.

Ahmed Doleh, assistant to the interior minister in the Hamas-led government Abbas dismissed last month, had spent several days on a hunger strike since his arrest in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus.

Abbas's forces released five other Hamas officials and a politician they were holding in Nablus earlier this week, but 15 others from the Islamist group remained in custody.

With Western backing, Abbas sacked a unity coalition with Hamas and formed his own administration based in the West Bank after the Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip on June 14, following weeks of fighting with Abbas's Fatah group.

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