JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli investigators have arrested six men suspected of trying to set up a terror network linked to al-Qaeda, the Shin Bet security service said in a statement Friday, including a college student who expressed interest in shooting down President George W. Bush’s helicopter earlier this year.
Two of the men are Arab citizens of Israel, both of them students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, according to the statement. The other four are Palestinian residents of east Jerusalem. The men range in age from 21 to 24.
The new charges follow the arrest earlier this month of two Israeli Arabs on suspicion they gave strategic information to al-Qaeda. Those arrests marked the first time Israel had accused any of its citizens of cooperating with the global terror network.
Investigators found bomb-making instructions on the personal computers of several of the six new suspects, the Shin Bet said. But the statement gave no indication that the men’s activities ever moved beyond the planning stage, and none face charges of active involvement in any attacks.
One of the Israeli Arabs, a 24-year-old chemistry student, lived in a Jerusalem college dormitory overlooking a helicopter landing pad used by Bush during a visit in January. Using his cell phone, the student filmed helicopters taking off and landing, and sent a message to a Web forum linked to al-Qaeda asking about shooting Bush’s helicopter down, according to the Shin Bet.
The men were arrested in June and July, the statement said. But the information was only approved for publication on Friday, the day the men were to be indicted in a Jerusalem court.
The two men arrested earlier this month, Bedouin Arabs from southern Israel, gave al-Qaeda operatives information about strategic sites like army bases, skyscrapers and Israel’s international airport, as well as other crowded places that could serve as targets, the Shin Bet said in a July 9 statement.