Mass protests in West Bank city after Palestinian detainee dies

August 23, 2016 9:41 AM EDT

Members of Palestinian security forces take position following clashes with Palestinian youths in the old town of the West Bank city of Nablus August 23, 2016. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini

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NABLUS, West Bank (Reuters) - Nablus, the second largest city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, was gripped by violent protests on Tuesday after the death of a Palestinian detainee shortly after he was seized by Palestinian security forces.

Hundreds of protesters, some throwing stones, marched through the city to denounce the death of Ahmed Halawa, who was seized during a police raid that followed the death of two police officers last week.

"Security forces detained Ahmed Izz Halawa during a complicated and delicate security operation in Nablus," Adnan Al Dmairi, the spokesman for the Palestinian Authority's security services, said in a statement.

Halawa was killed after he was taken to Juneid prison in Nablus, he said, although the exact circumstances of his death were not clear. Akram Al-Rjoub, the governor of Nablus, said Halawa was beaten to death by members of the security forces.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah promised a full investigation, describing the incident as "rare".

Halawa was a senior member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, a militant group linked to the Fatah party.

In some cases militants have become involved in criminal activity, which the Palestinian security forces have been cracking down on, the Palestinian government said.

Last week, security forces carried out a raid in Nablus targeting a criminal group suspected of harbouring weapons. Two suspects were killed, one of them a relative of Halawa's, and two officers were shot dead.

Rjoub said Ahmed Halawa was "the mastermind" behind the shooting of the officers.

The Palestinian Authority is responsible for security and policing inside Palestinian cities, while Israeli security forces retain full control over around 60 percent of the West Bank, all of which the Palestinians seek for an independent state, alongside East Jerusalem and Gaza.

(This version of the story corrects name of Nablus governor to Akram Al-Rjoub in paragraph 4)

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta and Nidal al-Mughrabi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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