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Body Identified as That of Would-Be Bomber

May 20, 2003|From Reuters

JERUSALEM — Forensics experts have identified a body found off a beach in Israel as that of a British would-be suicide bomber who survived an attack that killed three people and another bomber in Tel Aviv, police said Monday.

Initial indications were that Omar Sharif, 27, had drowned. But the possibility that accomplices in Israel killed him to prevent his capture has not been ruled out, according to security sources.

Police said Sharif planned to carry out a suicide bombing at the same time as Asif Hanif, a fellow Briton of Pakistani descent who blew himself up April 30 at Mike's Place club on the Mediterranean coast.

Hanif, 21, went through with the attack, but Sharif fled after failing to detonate his explosives.

Police said Sharif's mangled and decomposed body was found floating 500 yards off the coast May 12. "It looks as though he took to sea in an act of desperation -- though where he hoped to get by swimming is unclear," a source said. "Could be that whoever helped him and Hanif get to Tel Aviv did not want him around to be interrogated."

The attack was the first of its kind by foreigners sympathetic to the 31-month-old Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel seized in the 1967 Middle East War. The Islamic group Hamas and an offshoot of Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction claimed responsibility for the bombing.

Israel said the two Britons crossed into Israel from Jordan last month and traveled to Gaza, where they met up with their Hamas handlers. They then smuggled their bombs into Israel.

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