Negev Bedouins Indicted for Membership in Al Qaeda Terror Group

Two residents of the Bedouin-Israeli city of Rahat were indicted Wednesday on charges of treason, espionage and membership in Al Qaeda.

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Hana Levi Julian,

Two residents in the Bedouin-Israeli city of Rahat in the Negev have been indicted on charges of treason, espionage and membership in the international Al Qaeda terrorist organization.

The two, Taher Abu Sakut and Omar Abu Sakut, were detained in late May in a joint sting operation by Israel Police, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Border Police. Both reportedly confessed to the charges in June, after a period of interrogation.

They are accused of membership in a terrorist organization, aiding the enemy in wartime and delivering information to the enemy in order to harm state security.

From their investigation, it appears that Taher Abu Sakut, the main defendant, drew closer to extremist Islam during 2006 after becoming active in the Islamic Movement in Rahat.  From 2006, he began entering internet sites identified with Al Qaeda and Global Jihad, sites which call for the destruction of Israel.

According to a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, "Taher Abu Sakut agreed to join the terrorist organization and transferred to its operatives information on IDF bases, Israeli strategic installations and crowded places, in order to facilitate the planning of attacks. Inter alia, [he] directed them to the Azrieli Towers in Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion International Airport, and areas from which they could infiltrate into Israel from Judea and Samaria."

"During the contacts, Taher requested that Global Jihad put him in contact with fighters from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, in order to perpetrate an attack in Israel against the Jews," read the statement.

Majid Abu Sakut, brother of Omar, insisted the two were innocent. He was quoted by Ynet on Wednesday evening as saying they were "just two kids who visited the wrong websites," and added that he did not believe the Shin Bet has enough evidence to convict his brother.

The only Bedouin city in Israel, Rahat is home to some 40,000 residents and is the largest community of its kind in the country.