Arab-Israeli proposed attack on Bush helicopter: Israel

Israel Materials 18 July 2008 20:23 (UTC +04:00)

Israel Friday accused six Palestinians of having tried to form an al-Qaeda cell in Jerusalem, and said one of them had proposed an attempt to assassinate George W Bush by attacking the US president's helicopter during a recent visit, reported dpa.

The six - two Arab Israelis from northern and central Israel and four residents of East Jerusalem - were indicted at a Jerusalem court. A gag order on the case was lifted slightly before the indictment.

The two Arab Israelis are students at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

One of them, Mohammed Najan, a chemistry student, lives in the dormitories of the university's Givat Ram campus, which is near a helicopter landing pad used by visiting dignitaries. Bush visited Israel in May and January.

According to Israel's Shin Bet internal security organization, Najan, 24, from the northern Israeli town of Nazareth, observed the helicopter pad and photographed it with his cell phone.

He also allegedly sent a message to a website linked to al-Qaeda and asked about shooting the presidential helicopter down.

The other Arab Israeli was identified as Ibrahim Nashaf, 22, from the town of Taibeh in central Israel and a computer and physics student at the Hebrew University.

The suspects from East Jerusalem were named as Yousef Soumarin, Anas Shwayke, Ahmed Shwayke and Kamal Abu Queidar, all in their early 20s.

The allegations came after a first suspicions of al-Qaeda activity in Israel earlier this year, according to which two Arab Israelis, Bedouin in their 20s from the south of the county, had established contacts with al-Qaeda operatives via the Internet.

Those two, Taher Abu Sakut and Omar Abu Sakut, were arrested in late May and early June and indicted in early July.

Taher Abu Sakut is suspected of pointing out possible sensitive targets in Israel including the Azrieli Towers - a key office complex and shopping mall in central Tel Aviv.

He also also allegedly pointed them to Israel's Ben-Gurion International Airport, and to areas with breaches in Israel's controversial security barrier, from where it is possible infiltrate into Israel via the West Bank, the Shin Bet internal security organization said.

The main suspects' family and lawyer, however, denied the allegations and said their sons and clients entered the websites linked to al-Qaeda out of "curiosity," but immediately refused to hand over any information related to Israel's security when asked to do so by other users of chat rooms on the site.

No immediate reaction was available from the lawyers and families of the six new suspects.

Although the network is said to have operatives in the Gaza Strip, there had until then been no reports of al-Qaeda activity within Israel. dpa ok ds sc