Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The World | The Middle East

U.S. Not Convinced Document Is Real Arafat-Terrorism Link

Diplomacy: Palestinians say alleged invoice from militants responsible for recent attacks is forged.

April 04, 2002|BOB DROGIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials said Wednesday that they were unable to confirm the authenticity of a so-called terror invoice that Israel says its troops found when they stormed the West Bank headquarters of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

The Bush administration, desperately seeking a means to defuse the mounting Mideast crisis, thus sought to avoid becoming embroiled in a hotly debated sideshow to the bloodletting on the ground.

Israel claims that the document directly links the office of the besieged Palestinian leader with the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the militant offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement that has conducted some of the most horrific suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians recently.

On Tuesday, Israel released what it called an original invoice from the group to a senior Palestinian official. The document, typewritten in Arabic, requests money for bomb-making materials, assault rifles and ammunition, and other expenses. The document is dated Sept. 16, 2001.

Palestinian officials dismissed the document as a crude forgery. A spokesman called it "baseless and worthless."

A U.S. official said Wednesday that Washington does not know if the document is real, and suggested that the administration does not consider the issue a high priority. "We cannot confirm its authenticity," the official said. "It's possible, but we don't know."

Israel long has accused Arafat of secretly backing terrorist groups, which have killed more than 40 Israelis since the middle of last week. Arafat has denied the charge and has condemned suicide attacks. If real, the document offers the first public evidence of direct support by someone close to Arafat.

Experts describe Al Aqsa as a network of armed guerrilla groups that share similar tactics and objectives. The U.S. State Department recently added it to its list of terrorist organizations.

Israeli officials said the document was found Friday by troops who searched the office of Fuad Shubaki, the Palestinian Authority's top financial officer.

Shubaki was reported earlier to have been arrested by Palestinian police for authorizing payment for a shipload of Iranian weapons that Israeli commandos intercepted in the Red Sea.

The document released by Israel begins by referring to debts of more than $8,000 that already had been incurred. It then cites "costs for various electrical components and chemical supplies--for the production of charges and bombs."

"We need about 5 to 9 bombs a week for our cells in various areas," the document reads, noting that the devices "are our largest expense."

The document also lists the cost of portraits of those killed opposing the Israelis, and requests money to buy AK-47 assault rifles and ammunition.

Israeli troops have reoccupied West Bank cities and towns in an attempt to crush what the government calls "a terrorist infrastructure" responsible for suicide bombings. Israeli Col. Miri Eisen, an army spokeswoman, said the document shows why that policy is justified.

"You could probably call this a terror invoice," she told reporters in Jerusalem. "You often ask what is a terrorist infrastructure? Who are we [the army] acting against?

"It's the suicide bombers themselves, those who are trying to transport them, those making the bombs, and especially those who are paying them, making sure they do it, making sure their families support them," she said.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|