Israel-Arab al-Qaida cell plotted to kill Bush

One group member suspected of planning to bomb Bush's helicopter while it landed at Hebrew U.

bush israel 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
bush israel 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
In another sign of global jihad's growing presence in Israel, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) released for publication on Friday that six Israeli Arabs have been arrested for allegedly setting up an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist network and plotting to shoot down US President George W. Bush's helicopter earlier this year. Bush was in Israel in January and May. The suspects - four men from east Jerusalem and two from within the Green Line - were indicted in Jerusalem District Court on Friday for membership in a terrorist group and possession of terrorist propaganda. The suspects range in age from 21 to 24. One of the suspects, Muhammad Naghem, a student from Nazareth at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, lived in a dormitory at the Givat Ram campus, which provided him with a clear view of the nearby helicopter landing pad. In January, Naghem allegedly used his cellphone to videotape the landing and takeoff of Bush's helicopter and then contacted an Internet forum used by global jihad elements to inquire into the possibility, as well as what would be needed, to shoot down the visiting US president's helicopter. The group was arrested in a joint Shin Bet-Israel Police operation. The other suspects were identified as Ibrahim Na'ashaf, 22, from Taiba, a physics and computer science student at the Hebrew University, and four men from east Jerusalem neighborhoods: the suspected leader of the cell, Yousef Sumarin, 21, from Beit Hanina; Anas Shwayke, 21, from Jebl Mukaber; Kamal Abu Kweidar, 22, from the Old City; and Ahmad Shwayke, 21, from Shuafat. Investigators found bomb-making instructions on the personal computers of several of the six suspects, the Shin Bet said. But the statement gave no indication that the men's activities ever passed the planning stage, and none faces charges of active involvement in any attacks. During their interrogations, the suspects confessed to establishing the cell and said that they held regular meetings at the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. The new charges follow the arrest earlier this month of two Israeli Arabs on suspicion they gave strategic information to al-Qaida. Those arrests marked the first time Israel had accused any of its citizens of cooperating with the global terrorist network. The two men arrested earlier this month, Beduin from the South, gave al-Qaida operatives information about strategic sites such as army bases, skyscrapers and Ben-Gurion Airport, as well as other crowded places that could serve as targets, the Shin Bet said in a statement on July 9. White House spokesman Tony Fratto said, "We're going to decline to comment on the president's security." A spokesman for the US Secret Service in Washington, Edward Donovan, also declined to comment. Bloomberg contributed to this report.