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Palestinian militants burn West Bank offices

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Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
Yasser Arafat

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian militants Saturday burned down the regional governor's office and the adjacent offices of the Palestinian intelligence services in the West Bank city of Jenin, a militant leader said.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an offshoot of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, took responsibility for the act.

The group has attacked military and civilian targets in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

Zakaria Zubeida, a local leader of the group, told CNN the militants burned down the buildings because members of the intelligence services had been following them and they feared their whereabouts would be passed on to the Israeli military.

Al Aqsa has been at odds with Arafat in Gaza for two weeks after Arafat announced security changes that included appointing his cousin Musa Arafat as head of security.

Many Palestinians said he was replacing "corruption with more corruption," and leaders of his Fatah party in southern Gaza resigned in protest.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei also submitted his resignation, which Arafat refused. But on Tuesday, Arafat agreed to give control of internal security to Qorei, who withdrew his resignation.

Kidnapped and released

News of the violence came after three English teachers were abducted by gunmen in the West Bank town of Nablus Saturday but were released unharmed about two hours later, Palestinian authorities said.

The three were not identified beyond their nationalities -- American, Irish and Finnish.

The Nablus governor's office said witnesses reported that the three were returning to their home in Nablus shortly after midnight when they were accosted by gunmen who had been waiting in a car.

The three were taken from the scene by the gunman.

About two hours later, the three were released at the office of Palestinian intelligence in Nablus.

There apparently was no confrontation between the abductors and Palestinian authorities, and it was not known whether any of the abductors were taken into custody.

No group claimed responsibility for the abduction, but Palestinian intelligence officers said they believed the abductors came from the nearby refugee camp of Balata.

The three who were abducted teach English at a Christian institution in Nablus, according to the governor's office.

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