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For first time, Israel charges West Bank Palestinians with al-Qaeda link - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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JERUSALEM (AP) – Israel linked West Bank Palestinians with the al-Qaeda network for the first time when a military court charged two youths with receiving funds from the jihad group to carry out a coordinated double bombing in Jerusalem.

The Palestinians, from the Balata refugee camp near Nablus, met with al-Qaeda operatives in Jordan, arranged for secret e-mail communication, opened a bank account and received 3,000 Jordanian dinars ($4,240, ¤3,490) from al-Qaeda to carry out the Jerusalem attack, according to the indictment, released Tuesday.

The indictment comes just weeks after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said al-Qaeda was trying to recruit West Bank and Gaza Palestinians. Abbas said his security forces “are trying with all means to prevent their (al-Qaeda’s) arrival here, or their carrying out any … acts in this region.”

Israeli security officials, including Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, have confirmed that al-Qaeda has been trying to infiltrate the Palestinian territories, and Israel is considered a prime target for such attacks.

The indictment gives a detailed look at how the Palestinians met the al-Qaeda operatives and how the international terror network went about recruiting and financing them.

Azzam Abu Aladas, 19, and Balal Hafnai, 19, were arrested by Israeli security forces in December 2005 while crossing the Allenby Bridge from Jordan into the West Bank, according to the indictment.

The military said the two missed their original Oct. 30 date for the Jerusalem attack, and their arrest in December prevented them from carrying it out later.

The two visited Jordan at least three times, together and separately, to meet their al-Qaeda handlers, named Abdullah and Abu Talha, the indictment said.

Abu Aladas made the first contact with Abdullah in May 2005, according to the indictment. A month later, Abdullah and Abu Talha gave Abu Aladas a security briefing that included telling him how to behave, how to identify if he is being followed, how to follow others, how to secretly form cells and draft people without them knowing one another and what to do if a member of the cell is caught.

In June 2005, during a visit to the Jordanian city of Irbid, Abu Aladas introduced Hafnai to Abdullah. When they returned to Nablus, Abu Aladas and Hafnai met at their homes in Balata and at a cemetery in the refugee camp. At these meetings, Abu Aladas and Hafnai drafted other people into the group and planned their double bombing.

The pair planned to carry out a suicide attack at a pizzeria in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem, and then detonate a car bomb on a nearby street when curious onlookers arrived to see the blown up pizzeria, according to the indictment.

They found a bomb-maker in the West Bank town of Tulkarem who would install a bomb in a car stolen from Israel and smuggle it into Jerusalem for a fee of up to 7,000 Jordanian dinars ($9,900 ¤8,150), the indictment said. Sometime around September 2005, Abu Aladas traveled to the Jordanian city of Irbid, to meet Abdullah, the al-Qaeda operative.

Abdullah gave Abu Aladas 2,000 Jordanian dinars ($2,800, ¤2,300) to begin planning the attack, according to the indictment. Abdullah told Abu Aladas he was responsible for the attack’s success and that al-Qaeda wanted it carried out on the 27th day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, or Oct. 30, the indictment said, but they were unable to do it then.

Sometime later, Abdullah gave Abu Aladas another 1,000 Jordanian dinars ($1,400, ¤1,150) to finance the attack. Another member of the cell, Maher Samaro, was to get another 5,000 Jordanian dinars ($7,000, ¤5,750), from a woman named “Naam” from the United Arab Emirates who was in contact with him by Internet, the indictment said.

The arrest of Abu Aladas and Balal foiled the attack plans, the indictment said.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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