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Tuesday, 29 January, 2002, 13:57 GMT
Mystery over female 'suicide bomber'
Al-Najah university
Al-Najah university: Some believe the bomber was a student
James Reynolds

Suicide bombers in Israel usually follow a familiar profile - young, religious and always male.

But police say it was a women who carried out a bomb attack on Sunday in Jerusalem, which killed one person, in addition to the bomber, and left many people injured.

This was the first time a Palestinian woman has carried out such an attack against Israel - but her identity still remains unknown.

I wonder how these allegations came from the Israeli side to the university

Rami Hamdallah, Al-Najah university
Following the attack, there were some media reports that the bomber was Shinaz Amuri, a student at Al-Najah University in the West Bank town of Nablus.

The university, which has 10,000 students, has strenuously denied the allegation. The president, Rami Hamdallah, told me there is no one by the name of Shinaz Amuri studying there.

"I would like to deny categorically that we have such a student in our records, ever," he said. " I wonder how these allegations came from the Israeli side to the university."

Identity mystery

But the university does have a student with the same surname Tahani Amuri.

I went to speak to her - but she had never heard of anyone called Shinaz Amuri, and reports that this woman was responsible for the attack in Jerusalem have puzzled her and her family:

Israeli police
Israeli police will now check women as closely as men

"We were surprised," she said.

Other students at the university are not so interested about where the woman came from. For some, the important fact is that an attack was carried out against Israel and nothing else.

So for the moment no one knows, or no one acknowledges who the woman was, whether she was from Nablus or elsewhere.

No one has claimed her body and no group has admitted responsibility for the attack. There is even doubt as to whether the woman meant to detonate the explosive she was carrying.

Important step

But for some, the fact that a woman was involved in an attack is an important step.

We don't know much about the woman, but whoever she was, she has perhaps changed the nature of the conflict

"I think that this was a reflection ... from the Palestinian women, that there is really war against the Palestinian society," said Dalal Salameh, one of a small number of female politicians in Nablus.

At the checkpoint on the road out of Nablus, Israeli soldiers with a bulldozer are putting up concrete barriers across part of the road.

Here and at other checkpoints and road blocks soldiers will now be checking women closely as well as men.

We still don't know much about the woman and the attack in Jerusalem, but whoever she was, whatever she planned, she has perhaps in some small way changed the nature of the conflict here.

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