Photo: EPA
Missing person flyers
Photo: EPA
Police find body of missing American student
Aharon Sofer, Jewish seminary student from New Jersey, vanished last Friday while hiking with a friend in the Jerusalem Forest.

Police said Thursday night that they had found the body of a 23-year-old American student who went missing last week near a forest in Jerusalem and that they did not suspect a criminal motive. His body was found earlier on Thursday.


"Following a forensic examination, the body ... was identified as that of missing person Aaron Sofer. Tests showed that no criminal act was committed and the body will be transferred to the family in the coming hours," a police spokeswoman said.



No details on the condition of the body or possible clues surrounding the circumstances of the death were revealed.


The body was found in the Jerusalem Forest, the same area where seminary student Aharon Sofer disappeared last week while hiking. Earlier on Thursday, police forces and volunteers intensified efforts to find the 23-year-old American student.


Aharon Sofer (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem District Police)  (Photo: Police Spokesperson's Unit)
Aharon Sofer (Photo courtesy of Jerusalem District Police)


Sofer, a Jewish seminary student from New Jersey, vanished on Friday while walking in woods not far from Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.


"He was hiking with a friend, making their way up a hill, and they lost contact," he said, adding that police were still trying to establish if Sofer had a hiking accident or if a crime had occurred, including whether he "might have been kidnapped".


Sofer missing over a week (Photo: EPA)
Sofer missing over a week (Photo: EPA)


Police released a video of Sofer disembarking from the light rail in Jerusalem at Mount Herzl. The video is the last known documentation of Sofer's whereabouts. Police say that there is no indication that nationalistic violence played any role in his disappearance.


VIDEO: Jerusalem District Police


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In June, three Israeli seminary students, all teenagers, were kidnapped while hitch-hiking in the occupied West Bank, some 30 km (20 miles) south of Jerusalem, and later found dead.


Hamas later acknowledged responsibility for the killings, which helped precipitate seven weeks of war between militants in Gaza and Israel that ended with an open-ended ceasefire on Tuesday.


The student's family has flown to Israel to be in contact with authorities. His brother Yoel said Sofer had gone out for a day-long hike during a study break.


"He came to take a little walk. He had his shoes, his hat and jacket, he just needed a little fresh air," the brother said. "We just want him back. Whatever anyone can do to get him back. Please pray for him."


The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.



First published: 08.28.14, 16:12
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