WASHINGTON (Mar. 4)
The arrest of a Moslem fundamentalist on suspicion of involvement in the bombing of New York’s World Trade Center last Friday could lead to a crack-down in this country on supporters of the Hamas movement and other groups like it.
As authorities closed in on the suspect in New Jersey, two lawmakers on Capitol Hill announced they were introducing legislation to bar members of Hamas from entering the United States.
The suspect, identified as Mohammed Salameh, 26, was arrested Thursday morning in Jersey City, N.J., after he tried to reclaim a deposit on a rented van that is believed to have been used in the bombing of the 110-story office complex.
The man allegedly presented rental papers that were covered with nitrates, a substance used in explosives that was found in the wreckage at the New York landmark.
Salameh was arraigned Thursday evening in U.S. District Court in New York on charges that he “did aid and abet the damage of the World Trade Center complex by use of an explosive device, causing the death of at least five individuals.
FBI and New York City police officials refused to provide further details of the suspect’s identity. But he was believed to be a Palestinian with an Egyptian passport who worshipped at the same Jersey City mosque as El Sayyid Nosair, the man charged and later acquitted of the November 1990 assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane.
In New York, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations, hailed the arrest, saying it appeared to be “further confirmation that Israel’s repeated warnings of the mounting threat to world order posed by Islamic fundamentalism can no longer be ignored.”
‘WE MUST SHUT THEM DOWN’
U.S. officials have grown increasingly concerned about the activities of Moslem fundamentalist groups in this country, particularly after Israel’s deportation in December of 415 Moslem fundamentalists, many of whom were members of the Hamas organization.
In January, Israel arrested two Palestinian Americans from the Chicago area, whom it accused of attempting to funnel money to Hamas activists in the administered territories.
Israeli officials have charged that Hamas activists in the administered territories.
Israeli officials have charged that Hamas activists in the territories are being directed by leaders in the United States. While the FBI has questioned that conclusion, it has stepped up its surveillance of Moslem fundamentalist groups operating in this country.
The legislation introduced in Congress on Thursday would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to classify Hamas activists outside the United States as part of a group that engages in terrorism and therefore ineligible for U.S. entry visas.
The sponsors of the legislation, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.), expressed their concern that the United States not serve as a center for Hamas fund-raising activities.
“We cannot allow the United States to serve as a base for members of this murderous terrorist organization,” D’Amato said at a news conference Thursday introducing the legislation.
“We know Hamas is operating in the United States,” said Deutsch. “Whether Hamas is responsible for the World Trade Center bomb or not, we must shut them down.”
SAME AS RESTRICTIONS ON PLO
A spokesman for Deutsch said Thursday that Hamas activists already present in this country would also be affected by the proposed legislation. He explained that if Hamas were recognized as a terrorist group, its members would no longer be able to raise funds legally and their offices would be closed.
Hamas would be subject, under the legislation, to the same restrictions currently placed on members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Also present at the news conference introducing the legislation was a group of Israelis who have been visiting Washington under the name Victims of Arab Terror. They represent Israelis who have survived terrorist attacks.
Among the Israelis were the mother of Israeli border policeman Nissim Toledano, whose murder late last year was a precipitating factor in the deportations, and Dov Kalmonovitzch, an accountant who was severely burned in the early days of the intifada. Hamas is firmly opposed to the Middle East peace talks, and its members have claimed responsibility for a number of recent deadly attacks on Israeli soldiers in the territories.
The State Department said recently that Hamas would be included for the first time in the department’s annual report on global terrorism to be released next month.
Earlier this week, the department acknowledged that American diplomats had been meeting with Hamas members, but it said it was calling a halt to such contacts.