Israel - Jihad cell suspected of targeting Jews, pope
Eight residents of the northern city of Nazareth and the local council of Yafa an-Naseriyye were arrested last month on suspicion of dealing with weapons and discussing the possibility of murdering soldiers and Jews, and even target the pope.
The eight men, one of whom is a minor, were arrested by the Shin Bet on suspicion of committing various weapons-related offenses.
According to the indictment, the men expressed interest in jihad – a holy war undertaken by Muslims against those who do not believe in Islam. "The defendants, on their own and together, visited radical Islamic websites dealing with jihad and weapons, terror and arms, and spoke about jihad while examining possibilities for implementing it."
The eight indicted men were identified as Bader Salah, 33, of Yafa an-Naseriyye; Suhil Salah, 26, of Yafa an-Naseriyye; Misara Yaad, 28, of Yafa an-Naseriyye; Abdel Rahman Abu Salim, 19, of Nazareth; Ibrahim Muhammad Abu Aaqab, 27, of Nazareth; Bilal Ubeid, 29, of Yafa an-Naseriyye; and Sabri Narni, 29 of Yafa an-Naseriyye. The ninth defendant, who was a minor when he committed the alleged acts, was not named due to a gag order.
Judge Yonatan Avraham extended the eight defendants' remand until July 28 with their lawyers' consent.
According to the indictment, some of the defendants discussed the need to obtain a weapon and murder a Jew, and four of them discussed a plan to target soldiers. Two of them also discussed the possibility of targeting Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Nazareth last year.
Two defendants explored the possibility of traveling to Chechnya and join the jihad of Muslim rebels against Russia, and three of them searched for anti-Islamic targets in order to act against them. In one case they planned to torch a Nazareth church, but failed to implement the plan due to an iron gate at the entrance.
The charges against the defendants include a series of weapons-related offenses, as well as obstruction of legal proceedings and conspiring to commit a crime. The indictment lists the names of 46 witnesses for the prosecution.
The new terror cell is related to a cell exposed last month, which was inspired by Osama bin Laden's global terrorist network. The cell uncovered last month is accused of murdering a taxi driver, planning to hurt Christian pilgrims and attempting to travel to an al-Qaeda training camp in Somalia.
Attorney Ala Aladin, who represents defendant Bader Salah, said the man's family was unaware of his arrest. He added that he was confident that as the investigation progressed, it would reveal that the indictment includes offenses his client did not commit.
Attorney Issam Tannous, who represents Suhil Salah, added that "the Shin Bet and police questioned my client and his friends, and the sessions did not reveal that this was an ideologically motivated organization. The indictment focused mainly on a variety of criminal weapon-related offenses. We are still studying it, as it was first presented to us today."
However, Attorney Yael Kochavi of the State Prosecutor's Office insisted at the end of the discussion that seven of the defendants committed ideologically motivated offenses.
"The indictment filed today is the result of a development in the investigation of the previous case, and we are certain that its details attest to the depth and nature of the affair."