3 Nazareth men with links to global jihad charged with cabbie's murder
Seven Arab-Israelis indicted for setting up terror cell inspired by global jihad. Three of them admit to 2009 murder of Yefim Weinstein; Christian pilgrims were also targeted. Two suspects tried to join Qaeda-linked militia in Somalia, but were extradited to Israel
According to suspicions, a terror cell consisting of seven Nazareth residents operated in Israel on behalf of global jihad, it was cleared for publication Monday after the men were indicted.
In what the Shin Bet and Amakim Police call one of the most severe security-related affairs in north Israel in recent years, seven young Muslim men who were inspired by extremist Islamist ideology operated in the region and even tried to join a terror network with links to al-Qaeda.
Among the crimes attributed to three of the cell members is the murder of 54-year-old taxi driver Yefim Weinstein in November 2009. Weinstein, from Upper Nazareth, was found dead near Kibbutz Kfar HaHoresh.
Weinstein's taxi cab following murder (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Three of the cell members - Ahmed Ali Ahmed (21), Haider Zaidana (26) and Raleb Ganayim (22) were indicted for the murder on Monday. The three Muslims became more radical over the past few years after being exposed to online video clips posted by Osama bin Laden and his followers, which also helped them obtain knowledge on the use of weapons and explosives.
The were charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder, assault, Molotov cocktail attacks, weapons manufacturing and arms trade and a host of other criminal offences, including kidnapping and armed robbery.
Police say the men have admitted to the crimes, reenacted some of them and led investigators to their arms caches.
The investigation led to the arrest of four other Arab-Israeli residents who were charged mostly with weapons offences and belonging to an illegal organization. The men were named as Asim Muhhamad Alan (23), Abed al-Rahman Izz al-Din Abu Salim (19) and Udei Mahmoud Azzam (23) – all from Nazareth. Another suspect, Omar Ali Kahili (22), resides in the nearby village Umm el-Ganem.
Avenge murder of Arabs
Commander Avi Elgrisi, head of the Amakim Police's Central Unit, said that in November 2009 the three main suspects conspired to murder a Jew in order to become "heroes" and to avenge what they referred to as the "killing of Arabs at the hands of Jews."
One of the suspects purchased a FN handgun, which was concealed in a Muslim cemetery in the city. According to Elgrisi, Weinstein picked Ahmed up with his cab on November 30 at an intersection located between Nazareth and Upper Nazareth. Zaidan followed the taxi with a moped.
Investigators believe that at some point, near Kfar HaHoresh, Weinstein began to suspect the passenger and reached into his pocket for his gun. At this point Ahmed stepped out of the vehicle and fired a number of bullets at Weinstein at close range. Ahmed then returned with Zaidana to Nazareth, where they ditched the scooter. The third suspect, Ganayim, picked them up with his car, according to the investigation.
The indictment said the murder was religiously-motivated.
Investigators caught a break when Ahmed and Ganayim flew to Ethiopia with the intent to enter Somalia and train with other global jihad terrorists to fight "heretics" and US soldiers stationed there.
Somalia is embroiled in a bloody civil war between the regime and radical Islamists belonging to Al-Shabaab, a militia with links to al-Qaeda which has threatened to attack Israel in the past. The militia has taken over most of the country and has turned it into a hotbed of terrorist activity.
Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia (Photo: Reuters)
Ahmed and Ganayim were arrested on the border between Kenya and Somalia and were eventually extradited to Israel. They were detained by Shin Bet operatives upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport.
Crimes against Christians
The suspects' interrogation revealed a series of crimes against Christians as well. Zaidana and Ganayim were charged, among other things, with torching tourist buses that had been rented out by Christian pilgrims. They also plotted to murder a Christian resident of Nazareth because he had "cursed the prophet."
According to Commander Elgrisi, the suspects planned to videotape the man's decapitation, but changed the plan and decided that they would kidnap him to the woods and bury him there.
"At some point they became apprehensive and did not carry out their plan," said the police official.
The investigation also revealed a series of other crimes the suspects were allegedly involved in. In one incident, the three men threw a firebomb at a Nazareth café after one of them was involved in a heated argument with one of the establishment's Muslim patrons.
In another incident, they ordered a pizza from Domino's Pizza. When the delivery man arrived at their destination, near a pool in Nazareth, they allegedly tied him up, stabbed him and stole his wallet, which contained NIS 100 ($26) and some personal documents, his cell phone and scooter. The victim of that incident survived.
On Monday a Nazareth court extended the suspects' remand until August 10.
When asked during the hearing whether he hated Christians, Ahmed answered in Arabic, "Long live Osama bin Laden". Ahmed smiled when he was asked if he hated Jews, but he did not respond.
Attorney Ala Atamna, representing Ahmed, told Ynet that his client claims he was "illegally coerced by investigators to admit to the allegations." The attorney said Ahmed traveled to Africa for a vacation.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to the report