3 Israelis Continue in Police Custody in London for Involvement in Kidnap Attempt of a Nigerian

Three Israelis and a Nigerian diplomat were today remanded for another eight days in police custody in London after being charged last week with the attempted kidnapping of Umaru Dikko, a former Transport Minister of Nigeria who is now a political exile. The men were remanded after a four-minute court appearance.

The Israeli government has disclaimed any connection with the incident or with the Israelis taken into custody by the British authorities. Two were identified yesterday as residents of Netanya. The third, identified as Alexander Barak, 27, is also from Netanya where his family is highly regarded. His mother, Naomi, is chairman of the local WIZO chapter and his stepfather, Shalom Bauchman, is a well known diamond dealer.

Barak is facing kidnap charges along with Felix Abutbul, 41, and Dr. Arye Lev Shapiro, a 45-year-old anaesthetist on the staff of the Hasharon Hospital in Petach Tikva where he heads the intensive care unit.

Conflicting reports about Barak were circulated in Israel today. The newspaper, Hadashot, claimed he has a police record dating from his youth, including charges of breaking and entering and general hooliganism. After performing his military service, he reportedly spent a number of years travelling abroad, living in New York, Paris, Antwerp and other places.

But neighbors in Netanya described Barak as a pleasant, attractive young man and couldn’t imagine how he could be involved in a kidnapping.

The police were quoted today as saying that Barak was “small fry” compared to Abutbul who lives in Netanya under the name of Felix Avital. His family owns a string of shops, nightclubs and restaurants in the city.

Reports from London yesterday quoted an Israeli lawyer who flew there at the request of his family as saying that Abutbul was born in Tunis and was in the import-export business, specializing in fashion goods.

There was no negative information with respect to Russian-born Dr. Shapiro who came to Israel 15 years ago and is married to another senior physician at Hasharon Hospital.

He was reportedly discovered in a crate last Thursday night alongside Dikko who had been drugged with pentothal. The crate was at Stansted Airport about to be loaded on a Nigerian-bound aircraft. Abutbul and Barak were reportedly concealed in another crate, as was a Nigerian, identified as Mohammed Yusufu, 40, of Lagos.

Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s spokesman, Avi Pavner, said here that any Israeli citizens who might have been involved in the incident were not employed by or linked with the Israeli government. An Israel Embassy spokesman in London said the Embassy has no knowledge of the men.

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