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Israeli Terror Suspects Captured by FBI

September 18, 2001

While the mainstream media has been quick to convict Osama Bin Laden for the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, what the national press is not reporting is that at least 13 Israeli nationals have been detained by the FBI for possible involvement.  At least three different groups of Israelis - some of whom may have ties to Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad - were taken into custody after eyewitnesses reported seeing them celebrating in several locations across the river from lower Manhattan in New Jersey. In two cases, the men were reportedly videotaping the initial kamikaze attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

When I spoke with a spokesman at the Embassy of Israel's situation room in Washington he said that at least 13 Israelis were being held in connection with the attacks.  All of the detained Israelis are connected to Israeli-owned moving companies operating out of New York and New Jersey.  No fewer than 13 of the 75 aliens who had been detained in the week after the attacks are Israeli nationals.

One group was reported to have been in Liberty State Park in Jersey City, another was seen in Liberty Park in Union City, and a third was apprehended on the roof of an Israeli-owned moving company.  According to New Jersey and New York newspapers, two groups of Israelis were stopped in vans belonging to Urban Moving Systems - one group of three and one group of five. Eyewitnesses reported seeing similar groups in Union City and Jersey City, both of which have parks named Liberty - more than five miles apart.

Witnesses reported seeing a group of men, who turned out to be Israelis, celebrating the first attack on the world Trade Center earlier in the day in Union City. Angry witnesses reported the license plate to authorities. The plate was registered to Urban Moving Systems, a truck-rental company based in Weehawken, N.J., according to a FBI spokesperson.  Business records show an "Urban Moving Systems" with offices on West 50th Street in Manhattan and on West 18th Street in Weehawken.  When a local reporter called the moving company, a woman, who refused to give her name, said, "We have no comment."

On Sept, 13, FBI agents searched the Weehawken warehouse owned by Urban Moving Systems, which employed the men detained by federal officials. The FBI seized computer hard drives and other items.

Three men, seen filming and celebrating as the Twin Towers were struck, were described as "illegal immigrants from the Middle East," and were arrested in a white Chevy van hours after the attacks.  Witnesses say they saw them "cheering" and "jumping up and down" in Liberty State Park in Jersey City after the attack and contacted police. In one report, Paulo Lima of the Bergen Record reported on Sept. 12 that five "Israeli tourists" had been arrested as suspected conspirators in the attacks. The five men, who were also stopped in a van on Route 3 in East Rutherford around 4:30 p.m., were being questioned by police but had not been charged.

The five "Israeli tourists" were arrested eight hours after the attacks by police in Bergen County, N.J., who said the men were found carrying maps linking them to the blasts. Sources close to the investigation said the men claimed to be "Israeli tourists" but police had not been able to confirm their identities. Authorities would not release their names.  Sources close to the investigation said they found other evidence linking the Israelis to the bombing plot, according to the report. "There are maps of the city in the car with certain places highlighted," the source said. "It looked like they're hooked in with this. It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park (Jersey City)."

Sources also said that bomb-sniffing dogs reacted as if they had detected explosives, although officers were unable to find anything. The FBI seized the van for further testing, authorities said.  The van was stopped as it headed east on Route 3, between the Hackensack River bridge and the Sheraton hotel. As a precaution, police shut down Route 3 traffic in both directions after the stop and evacuated a small roadside motel near the Sheraton.

East Rutherford officers stopped the van after the FBI's Newark field office broadcast an alert asking surrounding police departments to look for a white Chevrolet van, police said.  After grilling the men and searching the van in vain for explosives, the FBI reportedly turned them over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for deportation.

In a separate incident, the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, reported on Sept. 18 that five Israelis, suspected of working for the Mossad, had been arrested for what the FBI described as "puzzling behavior" following the attack.  The five Israelis, who are suspected to have been Mossad agents, were arrested four hours after the attack while filming the smoking skyline from the roof of their company's building. It appears they were spotted by one of the neighbors shouting cries of "joy and mockery." The neighbors called the police and the FBI, according to Ha'aretz.

This gang of five worked for an Israeli-owned "moving company" based in New Jersey and the men are being held in U.S. prisons after being interrogated. The five Israelis were reported to have worked for the Israeli-owned moving company for between two months and two years.  Seven FBI agents later stormed the apartment of one of the Israelis, searched it and questioned his roommate. The Israeli owner of the company, who has U.S. citizenship, was also questioned. Both men were subsequently released.

The families of the five, who asked that their names not be released, said that their sons had been questioned by the FBI for hours, had been kept in solitary confinement for three days, and had been humiliated, stripped of their clothes and blindfolded. 

"When they finally let my son make a phone call for the first time to a friend in the United States two days ago, he told him that he had been tortured by the FBI in a basement," the mother of one of the suspects told Ha'aretz. "They thought that because he has citizenship of a European country as well as of Israel that he was working for the Mossad."

The five were transferred out of the FBI's facility on Saturday morning and are now being held in two prisons in New Jersey by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They are charged with illegally residing in the United States and working without permits.  The Israeli Foreign Ministry said it had been informed by the consulate in New York that the FBI had arrested the five for "puzzling behavior." They are said to have been caught videotaping the disaster and shouting in what was interpreted as cries of joy and mockery.

Witnesses took the license plate number and the FBI sent out a BOLO, (Be On Look Out) alert on Sept 11.

Vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack. White, 2000 Chevrolet van with New Jersey registration with "Urban Moving Systems" sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, N.J., at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center.

Port Authority police are reported to have nabbed the three as they drove along Rte. 3 in East Rutherford, N.J.  In New Jersey, where officials believe the hijackers received assistance from an accomplice, Newark's FBI spokeswoman Sherri Evanina said five Israeli men were detained late Tuesday after their van was stopped.  Kerry Gill, a spokesman for the immigration service in Newark, said the FBI turned over the individuals to the Immigration and Naturalization Service on Wednesday. He said "they appeared to be Israeli citizens" and all five appear to be deportable.

Local sources have reported that one of the largest Israeli-owned moving companies in the area, Moishe's Moving Systems, in Jersey City, has "at least 100" young Israeli men, between the ages of 22 and 35, working in what is described as a "fortress" with covered windows and concertina wire surrounding the premises near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.

Senior officials from Mossad, the Israeli military intelligence service came to Washington last month to warn the CIA and the FBI that a cell of up to 200 terrorists was planning a major operation in America, according to a report in the London-based Sunday Telegraph on Sept. 17.  Israeli intelligence officials say that they warned their counterparts in the United States last month that large scale terrorist attacks on highly visible targets on American mainland were imminent.  The Mossad has a long history of penetrating, infiltrating and often manipulating Middle Eastern terror cells to serve their own purposes.

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