Police: We exposed Israeli al-Qaida cell

Follows arrest of 2 Rahat men on suspicion of plotting terror attacks with members of organization.

Rahat terrorists 224.88 (photo credit: Channel 2)
Rahat terrorists 224.88
(photo credit: Channel 2)
Two Israeli Beduin from the Negev town of Rahat were charged Wednesday with plotting terrorist attacks via the Internet with al-Qaida members overseas and marking out civilian and military sites as targets. The suspects were named by police as Taher Abu Sakut, 21, and Omar Abu Sakut, 22. They were arrested in late May and early June in a joint Israel Police-Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operation. The indictment filed against them on Wednesday in the Beersheba District Court accuses them of membership in a terrorist organization, aiding the enemy during a time of war and transferring information to the enemy with intent to harm national security. Both suspects confessed during their interrogations. "These are not Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza - they're Israeli residents, and we view this episode with extreme severity," said F.-Sgt Moti Azor, head of the Hostile Enemy Activities Unit in Lahish, part of the Southern Police District. "They're Israelis who were raised in this country. They really crossed the line and made contact with the worst of our enemies in order to attack us." "Taher was the first to go to on-line al-Qaida sites after becoming indoctrinated through the Islamic Movement. He was asked by al-Qaida members for targets to attack in Israel, and responded by sending information on Ben-Gurion Airport, the Ashkelon power plant, the Beersheba central bus station and targets in Eilat," Azor said. "He provided information on where terrorists could enter Israel via the West Bank, and where they could hide out in the desert after an attack. At a certain stage in the communication, Omar asked to be put in touch with fighters in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. He was plotting attacks that could harm his own family." "He [Taher] then told his cousin Omar to join the Web site, giving him a username and password. They visited 10 Islamist sites, all from their home in Rahat. The suspects used an array of programs aimed at hiding their Internet activities and erasing their tracks," Azor said. Taher's father was arrested and then released on bail in connection with the investigation, Azor said. "This is not about a few kids surfing the Internet. They intended to cause harm, and they admit to doing it for ideological reasons. This was done with malicious intent. In court, the suspects, who are now worried, showed some regret, saying they should have stopped themselves. But this regret is insincere - they don't regret it. We have exposed an al-Qaida cell in Israel," Azor said. Police and the Shin Bet would continue to hunt for jihadi cells in Israel, Azor vowed, adding that he hoped the recent arrests would deter Israeli Arab youths from visiting al-Qaida affiliated sites. This is not the first time that Israeli-Arabs have been charged with maintaining contacts with al-Qaida. In December, two Israeli Arabs from Jaljulya in the Triangle were arrested for allegedly planning al-Qaida inspired attacks on Israeli targets. The suspects told their interrogators that they had been influenced by al-Qaida's philosophy and used to spend hours surfing global jihad Web sites and listening to speeches by radical Islamic preachers.