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February 26, 2001

Arab woman confesses to luring Jewish teen to death on Internet

The Associated Press
National Post

JERUSALEM - A Palestinian woman, arrested last month on suspicion of luring an Israeli teenager to his death after an exchange of e-mails, has confessed, Israeli authorities said yesterday.

Mona Najar, 25, a free-lance journalist, denied any connection with the killing of Ophir Rakhum, 16, when she was arrested by Israeli soldiers posing as Arabs on Jan. 20.

But after more than a month of interrogation, she confessed that she persuaded the youth, in an exchange of e-mails, to meet her Jan. 17 at a Jerusalem bus station, the prime minister's office said in a news release.

Mr. Rakhum, who lived in the southern Israeli city Ashkelon, took the bus to Jerusalem, where Najar picked him up in a car and drove him to the West Bank of the Jordan River, where he was slain, the statement said.

Ms. Najar told her interrogators she did not intend for Rakhum to be killed, only kidnapped, to protest the killings of teenaged Palestinian activists by Israeli soldiers, authorities said.

Jawad Boulos, Ms. Najar's lawyer, said he did not think her confession was extracted by force.

But "she underwent a very tough interrogation in which other pressures were applied to her," such as deprivation of sleep, he told Israel's Channel 1 television.

Two Tanzim activists accused of killing Rakhum remain at large. They were identified in the news release as Hassan Alkadi and Abdul Fatah Dula. The Tanzim is a militia associated with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat's Fatah group.

The two men ordered Rakhum to leave the car and when he resisted one of them shot him dead, the statement said. They took him to the West Bank city Ramallah and buried him but his body was found by residents.

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