Police Officer’s Murder Uncovers Crime Ring and Fortified Compound

The shooting death of a young police officer here Saturday has given Israelis an inside look at an Arab crime syndicate that has more the makings of the Chicago mafia than anything one might expect to find in Israel.

The officer was killed Saturday morning in a shootout with an Arab underworld kingpin who murdered two family members, then took his own life, in a heavily fortified compound on the Tel Aviv-Jaffa city boundary.

The officer was identified Monday as Inspector Ofer Cohen, who, at age 30, had served four years as head of the detective intelligence section of the Jaffa police force and was regarded as an outstanding officer with a brilliant future.

Cohen was buried Monday in the police section of the Kiryat Shaul military cemetery outside Tel Aviv.

He left a wife and 5-month-old daughter.

His parents, who were vacationing in the United States when he was killed, had to be traced and returned to Israel. That explains why police initially withheld the slain officer’s identity.

His suspected killer was identified as Mohammed Ahmed Snir, 50, who was wanted for the attempted murder of an underworld rival last year.

He had just been released from prison, after serving a sentence for gangland car bombings.

According to the police, Snir murdered his brother, Sayed Abu Snir, 51, and his nephew, Osman Snir, 26, Saturday. Then, after fatally shooting Cohen, he shot himself in the head.

Police said he left a suicide note.

Cohen had been leading a squad of police trying to break into the Snir compound when he was hit by automatic fire.

The large police force, including an anti-terrorist squad, was investigating reports of shots fired in a complex of seemingly ramshackle buildings in an old orange grove owned by the Snir family, a clan suspected of murder and drug trafficking.

MIRRORS, BARBED WIRE AND TRENCHES

What they found was a bizarre series of fortifications bespeaking fear and paranoia. But bulldozers have failed to unearth the secret caches of weapons and drugs the police were expecting to find.

The Snir family “home” was an illegally built compound surrounded by three rings of walls, each nearly 15 feet high, made of steel barrels and topped by electrified barbed wire carrying high voltage.

There was an electrically activated dummy, which police suspect was used to draw hostile fire from intruders. Doors into the compound were of 4-inch-thick steel.

The buildings were connected by communications trenches. All approaches were covered by angled mirrors, enabling occupants to see around corners without exposing themselves.

Inside the buildings were windowless rooms that showed signs of use as dungeons, torture chambers and “drumhead courtrooms,” police said.

They also found a network of illegally laid water pipes, electric and telephone lines to serve the extensive Snir clan.

The Tel Aviv municipality has started razing the buildings, which were constructed in the compound without a license. The city is also trying to trace the real owners of the property, which the Snirs have claimed for decades.

Neighbors said Mohammed Snir fortified the compound after an anonymous intruder murdered one family member and crippled seven others in 1975. Most of the male members of the clan have either been murdered or have fled abroad.

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