Israel charges German visitor with plotting terrorist attack

JERUSALEM, Dec. 28 (JTA) — Israel has charged a German citizen with planning to carry out a terrorist attack. Stefan Josef Smyrek, 26, was charged last week in a Tel Aviv court with conspiring with an enemy, belonging to a terrorist group and attempting to harm state security. He also planned to attack Israeli diplomats in Bonn, according to the German weekly Focus. Smyrek, whose arrest came after close cooperation between Israeli and German security services, was detained at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport last month. Details of his arrest were only released last week. According to reports, Smyrek became involved with a Muslim woman in 1994 and later converted to Islam. This summer, he visited Lebanon, where he was recruited by Hezbollah and received training in the use of light weapons and explosives. In November, he was sent to Germany to obtain a new passport that would not show his previous visit to Lebanon so that he could travel to Israel. Smyrek was also instructed to gather information and film sites for a possible terrorist attack in Israel. When he was arrested, he was carrying $4,000, a video camera, film and a map of Israel. Smyrek told investigators that if released he would try to carry out his orders. Hezbollah has denied sending Smyrek to carry out an attack. The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that Israeli intelligence sources, acting on information from a reliable Hezbollah source, learned of Smyrek’s plans several months ago and alerted German intelligence to follow his movements. German sources were quoted by Ha’aretz as saying that since Israel was barred by law from acting on German soil, the German security services trailed Smyrek. According to the sources, Smyrek’s purchase of an El Al plane ticket to Israel from Amsterdam raised suspicions that he might try to blow up the plane. Dutch police were informed of the concerns and detained Smyrek at the airport. However, when no explosives were found on him, he was released. Having missed the El Al flight, Smyrek was said to have phoned his handlers, who told him to board the next available flight to Israel. Smyrek was arrested Nov. 28 after arriving in Israel. Smyrek’s mother, in an interview with a German tabloid, said her son was a victim of brainwashing. She said he had suddenly decided to convert to Islam and told her that it was better if she did not know his plans.

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