Shin Bet breaks up Islamic State terrorist cell in Nazareth; six arrested

Shin Bet says suspects plotted attacks on Muslim high school, police station, tourist destinations and busy hitchhiking stop in northern Israel; jihadi content found of phones of cell members

Yoav Zitun, Israel Moskovitz |
The Shin Bet security agency last month broke up an Islamic State cell in the northern city of Nazareth and arrested six suspects who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks throughout Israel, Ynet learned on Sunday.
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  • In their investigation, the suspects revealed that they had planned various different attacks.
    4 View gallery
    Suspects arrested over alleged Islamic State affiliation, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Ihab Suleiman, Muamen Nijam, Ahmed Belal Suleiman, Jafar Suleiman, Jihad Bakr
    Suspects arrested over alleged Islamic State affiliation, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Ihab Suleiman, Muamen Nijam, Ahmed Belal Suleiman, Jafar Suleiman, Jihad Bakr
    Suspects arrested over alleged Islamic State affiliation, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Ihab Suleiman, Muamen Nijam, Ahmed Belal Suleiman, Jafar Suleiman, Jihad Bakr
    (Photo: Shin Bet)
    The group planned to target a Muslim high school in their city due to its curriculum which includes sex education. The attack would have endangered the lives of hundreds of students, teachers, and other school staff.
    They also planned to attack the headquarters of the Northern District Police in Nazareth, a busy hitchhiking station in the northern city of Nahariya, and several nature reserves frequented by Jewish tourists.
    Indictments were filed against the six on Sunday, which included terror charges. The Shin Bet had requested to have them remanded until the end of proceedings, which will take place at the Nazareth District Court
    The six group members were identified as Muhammad Ihab Suleiman (25), Jafar Suleiman (21), Muamen Nijam (20), Ahmad Belal Suleiman (18), Jihad Bakr (20), and a minor whose name was barred from publication.
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    תיכון ע"ש חאלד סלימאן בנצרת
    תיכון ע"ש חאלד סלימאן בנצרת
    Khaled Sliman High School in Nazareth
    (Photo: via Facebook)
    According to the Shin Bet, the suspects consumed Islamic State content they were exposed to online which led them to develop deep sympathies for extremist ideology. Cell members also tried to obtain weapons and recruit other people who share similar beliefs.
    Israel Police and Shin Bet warned that Islamic State is trying to recruit members of Israel's sizeable Arab minority through social media.
    Security agencies reported that the Islamic State content found on the suspects' cellphones included images of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the founder of the extremist group who was killed in a U.S. Special Forces operation in 2019, which points to the cell's affiliation with IS ideology rather than the group itself.
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    מנהיג דעאש אבו בכר אל בגדדי
    מנהיג דעאש אבו בכר אל בגדדי
    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi
    (Photo: MCT)
    Other content included an image of Muath al-Kasasbeh, a Jordanian pilot who was captured and executed by the group in early 2015, with the caption "burn the sinners" superimposed on it. Another image featured IS training in Africa.
    The suspects were also members of several Telegram channels used to share news about the organization, terror attack summaries, and religious and terror-inciting content.
    "We managed to thwart a series of harsh and severe terror attacks that would have shaken the north. They planned to attack a Muslim high school in Nazareth due to sexual education classes being taught there, according to the suspects. As for the bus stop in Nahariya, the goal was to carry out a shooting attack on soldiers ," said Superintendent Hodaya Amsalem, head of the minority department at the Northern District Police who led the investigation.
    "They all worked gig jobs in renovations and electricity and used to meet up to plan out the attacks," she said.
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    הוצאה להורג של ״כופר״
    הוצאה להורג של ״כופר״
    Islamic State materials seized by Shin Bet
    (Photo: Shin Bet)
    Meanwhile, the attorney of one of the suspects claimed that his client denies any connection to IS.
    "He is a normative young man without any criminal record who works in various occasional jobs. He leads a religious lifestyle, but that does not mean he's connected to IS. He denies having planned to carry out terrorist attacks throughout the north," he said.
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