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Travel Agent Held for Conspiring to Smuggle Explosives into West Bank

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An Egyptian-born travel agency owner living in Jersey City, was arrested there by U.S.Customs agents yesterday on charges of conspiring to smuggle 150 pounds of explosives to a member of the PLO in the West Bank. The suspect, Sultan Ibrahim El Gawli, a 47-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen and owner of the Sultan Travel Agency, was scheduled to be arraigned in Federal Court here today on charges of murder for hire, dealing in explosives, and exportation, without a license, and the conspiracy charges, according to a U.S. Customs spokesperson, Michael Kaufman.

Kaufman said that Gawli attempted to buy 150 pounds of C-4 explosives, produced in the United States for military purposes, plus 100 blasting caps and remote electrical detonating devices with a 500-yard range,for $25,000, and a gun with a silencer for $1,500.

A co-conspirator planned to put the explosives and gun in his luggage, take them on a flight out of the U.S. and then smuggle them to the West Bank and deliver them to another conspirator who “represented himself as a PLO representative,” Kaufman said. The goods, he added, did not change hands, however.

Art Stiffel, a special Customs agent, charged that the conspirators’ plan was to have the explosives arrive in Israel seven to ten days before Christmas.

Gawli’s arrest climaxed a two-month investigation, according to Kaufman. If he is convicted of the charges, Gawli faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $270,000 fine, the agent said.

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