Suspect confesses in French factory attack


The suspect accused of decapitating his boss during an attack on a gas factory in France has confessed, according to French news reports.

Yassin Salhi, 35, gave details about Friday’s attack and said he had a dispute with his boss at the U.S.-owned Herve Cornara factory near Lyon, the French daily Le Parisien reported Sunday. The father of three, who lives in suburban Lyon, told interrogators that he also had problems at home.

Salhi was transferred to Paris from Lyon on Sunday for further questioning.

Following the confession, Salhi’s wife and sister were released after being in police custody for nearly two days.

Salhi reportedly took two selfie photos with the severed head on the gate, which reportedly was covered with Arabic writing, and sent them via WhatsApp to a phone number in Canada.

French investigators believe that Salhi’s links with radical Islam are also related to the attack. Salhi had been known to French security services for “radicalization” but slipped through the net, the French news agency AFP reported.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Friday that Salhi had been investigated for links to radical Islamists in Lyon, but was not known to have participated in terrorist activities and did not have a criminal record, according to AFP.

In July 2011, two men identified as being of North African descent exchanged blows with a Jewish teenager aboard a train from Toulouse to Lyon. The teenager said one of the men, who he identified as Salhi, had made anti-Semitic remarks.

Suspect arrested in firebomb attack on German synagogue


A suspect has been arrested in an attempted arson attack on a German synagogue.

A neighbor of the New Wuppertal Synagogue in the former West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia called police at about  2 a.m. on Tuesday to report burning objects in the street next to the synagogue, according to German news reports. Three men reportedly threw Molotov cocktails at the synagogue, which was dedicated in 2002.

WDR broadcast news reported that an 18-year-old man was arrested nearby. Police did not reveal further information about the one apprehended suspect, but according to Reuters the man told authorities he is Palestinian.

There were no injuries but traces of a flammable liquid were found around the building.

A local group, the Palestinian Friendship Association, distanced itself from the incident which it condemned  “profoundly.” Association spokesperson Ismail Karsoua said such acts are counterproductive to political discussion, WDR reported.

In related news, police in the city of Essen, also in North Rhine-Westphalia, last week received a tip that an attack on the city’s Old Synagogue had been announced on Facebook for 3 a.m. on July 24. Police arrested three men at the scene at 1 a.m. that day, after they rolled down the window of their car and threatened, “We’ll see you later.” The men were later released.

Gunman kills five in Santa Monica, shot dead by police


A gunman dressed in black killed five people in a string of shootings through the seaside California town of Santa Monica on Friday before he was shot dead by police in a community college library, law enforcement officials said.

Five other people were wounded, one of them critically, in the shooting rampage that unfolded just a few miles from where President Barack Obama was speaking at a political fundraiser elsewhere in Santa Monica, west of Los Angeles.

As the gunman lay dead on a sidewalk outside the Santa Monica College library, a second individual was taken into custody near the campus and described by police as a “person of interest” in the case. He was later released.

Police initially said six people were killed by the gunman, who was described only as a man between the ages of 25 and 30.

Obama completed his remarks at his event without interruption and left for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping near the desert resort community of Palm Springs. The bloodshed did not appear to be related to Obama's visit and the Secret Service called it a “local police matter.”

The killing spree marked the latest in string of high-profile mass shootings over the past year, including a December attack in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school and a shooting last July at a suburban Denver movie theater that killed 12 people.

Those attacks have helped reignite a national debate over gun violence in America that spurred Obama and his fellow Democrats to push for expanded background checks for gun buyers – an initiative defeated in the U.S. Senate.

Santa Monica Police said the carnage began at a home east of the college, where the gunman shot two people dead before apparently torching the home. The Los Angeles Times, citing law enforcement sources, reported that the first two victims were believed to be the gunman's father and brother.

“I was in my apartment when I heard five to seven shots, then a pause, then two shots and I knew it was guns,” neighbor Janet Carter told Reuters.

'HORRIFIC EVENT'

Carter said she walked outside and saw a woman sitting in her car with blood trickling from her head. One of the windows in the car had been blown out, and the woman was lucid and on her cell phone talking to her husband.

Carter said she and another neighbor placed cold compresses around the woman's shoulder area, where there was blood, and she noticed in the meantime that an old wood house across the street was consumed by flames.

Santa Monica Police Sergeant Richard Lewis said that after leaving the home, the gunman carjacked a woman and ordered her to drive. Along the way he fired at least several rounds at a city bus, wounding three people.

Arriving at the college, the gunman opened fire on a red sport utility vehicle in a staff parking lot, killing the driver and critically wounding his passenger, Lewis said.

The gunman, who was armed with an AR-15 style rifle and at least one handgun, then shot and killed another person at the college before he died in an exchange of gunfire with police, Lewis said.

He said investigators had not yet determined a motive for the rampage, adding: “It's a horrific event that everybody wishes never happened.”

Students at the campus library described a scene of pandemonium as the sounds of gunfire rang out, sending some scurrying for cover.

One student inside the library, Cyrus Jabari, 19, said that through a window he could see a man dressed in black with a buzz-style haircut carrying what appeared to be an assault rifle.

“The only thing between me and him was a glass door,” he told Reuters.

Rabbi Eli Levitansky, who runs Santa Monica College’s Chabad club, said he has been in touch with student locked down on campus and had not heard of any Jewish students wounded in the attacks as of 2:30 Friday afternoon.

“I am actually in contact with them [the Jewish students on lockdown] right now. I’m on the phone with them, pretty much every other minute, speaking to them, calming them,” Levitansky told the Journal this afternoon.

When the shooting occurred, Levitansky was walking en route to campus from his home as part of a regular ritual he does four times a week to help students on campus wrap tefillin. He lives only two blocks away. The sight of students running and the swift arrival of campus police alerted him to the shooting. He said he did not hear gunshots.

Levitansky described seeing SWAT teams, sheriff helicopters, ambulance trucks and dozens of police officers. “It’s like a warzone,” said Levitansky, who also serves as rabbi at the nearby Chabad of Santa Monica.

Natasha Nemanim, 24, tried to get onto the campus to turn on a final paper early Friday afternoon but turned back after seeing helicopters in the air and heavily armed security personnel at the entrance to the campus on Pico and 18th street.

“It was stressful definitely; those guns are pretty big and they make you wonder what’s happening in there,” Nemanim said. She spoke to The Journal on Friday from Kehillat Ma’arav, a Conservative synagogue about a mile from the campus.

“It appears to be controlled as long as you’re not on campus,” said Nemanim, who spent two years as a student at SMC before transferring to UCLA, where she studied psychology. “But if you were on campus, I have to imagine your cortisol levels would be through the roof.”

Police officers during a search at Santa Monica College following a shooting on campus on June 7. Photo by Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters

Reporting and writing by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Jonah Lowenfeld (Jewish Journal) Ron Grover (Reuters), Alex Dobuzinskis(Reuters); Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh

FBI says man shot dead while being questioned about Boston bombings


An FBI agent shot and killed a Florida man who turned violent while being questioned about the Boston Marathon bombings early on Wednesday, the bureau said.

A friend of the dead man identified him as 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev of Orlando, a Chechen who had previously lived in Boston, the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando television stations reported. Two brothers named by the FBI as suspects in the April 15 bombings were also ethnic Chechens with roots in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

The FBI said in a statement that a special agent, “acting on the imminent threat posed by the individual, responded with deadly force. The individual was killed and the special agent was transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”

It said the shooting occurred in Orlando, Florida, while the special agent and other law enforcement agents, including two Massachusetts State Police officers, were interviewing the man about the blasts that killed three people and injured 264 others at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

“A violent confrontation was initiated by the individual,” the FBI said, without providing further details.

Todashev's friend, Khusn Taramiv, said Todashev knew bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev because both were mixed martial-arts fighters but had no connection to the bombing.

“Back when he used to live in Boston, right, they used to hang out,” Taramiv told Central Florida News 13. “He met them few times 'cause he was MMA fighter the other guy was boxer, right. They just knew each other, that's it.”

The shooting occurred at an Orlando apartment complex where several people of Chechen descent lived. Taramiv said Todashev and others in the complex had been questioned several times by law enforcement agents since the day the Tsarnaev brothers were identified as the bombing suspects.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gunfight with police. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was found hiding in a boat in Watertown, Massachusetts, four days after the bombings. He was charged with crimes that could carry the death penalty if he is convicted.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been on a U.S. government database of potential terrorism suspects and the United States had twice been warned by Russia that he might be an Islamic militant, according to U.S. security officials.

In Florida, the Orange County Sheriff's Office said Todashev had been arrested on May 4 and charged with aggravated battery with great bodily harm after getting into a fight with another man over a parking space at an Orlando shopping mall.

Police said they arrested Todashev as he was leaving the scene and found a man lying on the ground near a “considerable” amount of blood.

Todashev told police the other man came at him swinging and the two started fighting. “Todashev said he was only fighting to protect his knee because he had surgery in March,” the report said.

The man, who suffered a split upper lip and had several teeth knocked out of place, did not to press charges against Todashev, who was released from jail on a $3,500 bond, a sheriff's spokeswoman said.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, said Todashev was frequently seen shadow boxing as he jogged around the small lakes that dotted the apartment complex where he lived two blocks from the Universal Orlando theme park.

Additional reporting by Jane Sutton and Kevin Gray; editing by Jackie Frank

One suspect dead, another on the run in Boston bombings


Police killed one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing in a shootout and mounted house-to-house searches for a second man on Friday, with much of the city under virtual lockdown after a bloody night of shooting and explosions in the streets.

Authorities cordoned off a section of the suburb of Watertown and told residents not to leave their homes or answer the door as officers in combat gear scoured a 20-block area for the missing man, who was described as armed and dangerous.

Officials identified the hunted man as Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, and said the dead suspect was his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26.

The fugitive described himself on a social network site as a minority from southern Russia's Caucasus, which includes Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia and other predominately Muslim regions that have seen two decades of unrest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Boston came to a virtual standstill after authorities urged everyone to stay at home. Public transportation throughout the metropolitan area was suspended, and air space was restricted. Universities including Harvard and M.I.T. and public schools were closed.

In Watertown, the lockdown cleared the streets for police. Waves of officers descended upon the town, racing from one site to the next where they believed the suspect might be hiding. Officers periodically barked orders at reporters to move back.

The events stunned the leafy suburb, a wooded former mill town that has a large Russian-speaking community.

During the night, a university police officer was killed, a transit police officer was wounded, and the suspects carjacked a vehicle before leading police on a chase that led to one suspect being shot dead.

Police destroyed what they believed to be live ordnance in a number of controlled explosions throughout the morning.

Police were searching for the younger Tsarnaev, previously known only as Suspect 2, who was shown wearing a white cap in surveillance pictures taken shortly before Monday's explosions and released by the FBI on Thursday.

“We believe this to be a terrorist,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.”

The older brother, previously known as Suspect 1, who was seen wearing a dark cap and sunglasses in the FBI images, was pronounced dead.

The FBI on Thursday identified the men as suspects in the twin blasts believed caused by bombs in pressure cookers placed inside backpacks left near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The blasts killed three people and wounded 176 in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the suicide hijacking attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

INTERNET POSTINGS

The brothers had been in the United States for several years and were believed to be legal immigrants, according to U.S. government sources. Neither had been known as a potential security threat, a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation said Friday.

A Russian language social networking site bearing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's name paid tribute to Islamic websites and to those calling for Chechen independence. The author identified himself as a 2011 graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public school in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He said he went to primary school in Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan, a province in Russia that borders on Chechnya, and listed his languages as English, Russian and Chechen.

His “World view” was listed as “Islam” and his “Personal priority” as “career and money.”

He posted links to videos of fighters in the Syrian civil war and to Islamic web pages with titles such as “Salamworld, my religion is Islam” and “There is no God but Allah, let that ring out in our hearts.”

He also had links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya, a region of Russia that lost its bid for independence after two wars in the 1990s.

STEP BY STEP

About five hours after the FBI released the surveillance pictures showing the two men near the bombing site on Thursday, a university police officer was shot and killed on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Middlesex County District Attorney said in a statement.

A short time later, police received reports of a carjacking by two men who kept their victim inside the car for about half an hour before releasing him, the statement said.

Police pursued that car to Watertown, where explosives were thrown from the vehicle at police and shots were exchanged, the statement said.

“During the exchange of the gunfire, we believe that one of the suspects was struck and ultimately taken into custody. A second suspect was able to flee from that car and there is an active search going on at this point in time,” said Colonel Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.

The wounded suspect was taken to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he died with multiple injuries including gunshot wounds and trauma that may have been caused by an explosion, said Dr. Richard Wolfe, chief of emergency medicine.

Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball, Alex Dobuzinskis, David Bailey, Peter Graff; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Storey and Doina Chiacu

Obama: ‘The entire country is behind the people of Boston’


President Barack Obama called Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino on Friday to offer ongoing federal help in the Boston bombing investigation, and to express condolences for a police officer killed in the search for suspects.

“The President said that the entire country is behind the people of Boston as well as Massachusetts, and that the full force of the federal government will continue to be made available until those responsible are brought to justice,” a White House official said.

Obama stayed out of the public eye on Friday after traveling to Boston on Thursday to speak at a service for the victims of Monday's bombing.

Top White House officials continue to watch the situation and brief Obama, the White House said.

Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Eric Walsh

FBI identifies two suspects in Boston Marathon bombing [PHOTOS]


Investigators released pictures of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing on Thursday, seeking the public's help in identifying two backpack-toting men photographed on the crowded sidewalk on Monday before bombs exploded near the finish line.

The blasts that killed three people and wounded 176 began a week of security scares that rattled the United States and evoked memories of the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacked plane attacks.

“Somebody out there knows these individuals as friends, neighbors, co-workers or family members of the suspects,” Richard DesLauriers, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's special agent in charge in Boston, told a news conference.

“Though it may be difficult, the nation is counting on those with information to come forward and provide it to us,” he said.

DesLauriers warned the public that the men were considered armed and dangerous.

Both men carried backpacks that were believed to contain the bombs. The FBI identified suspect No. 1 as a man wearing a dark baseball cap and sunglasses. Suspect No. 2 wore a white cap baseball cap backwards and was seen setting down his backpack on the ground, DesLauriers said.

The FBI released a 30-second video of the two men, one walking behind the other, that edited together three different angles. The video appeared to have been taken from security cameras.

A picture of both men in the same frame was taken at 2:37 p.m., about 13 minutes before the two explosions tore through the crowd that had been cheering on finishers of the race.

Investigators believe the bombs were made of pressure cookers packed with shrapnel. Some of the wounded suffered gruesome injuries and at least 10 people lost limbs as a result of the blasts.

Investigators hoped the men would be identifiable within hours of the release of the pictures and video, a national security official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Investigators were looking at the men for some period of time before deciding to make the videos public, and they had extensive video and still pictures to justify the FBI decision to label the two men as suspects, the official said.

At least one other person of interest who featured in crime scene pictures had been ruled out as a suspect. Also ruled out earlier in the week was a Saudi student who was injured in the attacks, the official said.

OBAMA IN BOSTON

President Barack Obama sought to bring solace to Boston and the nation in an interfaith service at a cathedral about a mile (1.6 km) from the bomb site, declaring “You will run again” and vowing to catch whoever was responsible.

He promised resilience in a message directed toward Boston but also to a country that was on edge.

A man was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of mailing the deadly poison ricin to Obama and a massive explosion at a fertilizer factory devastated a small Texas community, sending shockwaves at least 50 miles (80 km) away.

Obama said the country stood in solidarity with the victims of the Boston bombs on their road to recovery.

“As you begin this long journey of recovery, your city is with you, your commonwealth is with you, your country is with you,” Obama said. “We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that, I have no doubt. You will run again.”

After his speech, Obama met with volunteers and Boston Marathon organizers, many of whom cared for the injured, and with victims at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The bombs in Boston killed an 8-year-old boy, Martin Richard; a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell; and a Boston University graduate student and Chinese citizen, Lu Lingzi.

Before his visit, Obama declared a state of emergency in Massachusetts, making federal funding available to the state as it copes with the aftermath of the bombing. 

Suspects wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 are revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Photos of a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings are seen during a news conference in Boston, Massachusetts April 18, 2013. The FBI said on Thursday that it has identified two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing and is asking the public for help in identifying the two men. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Suspect wanted for questioning in relation to the Boston Marathon bombing April 15 is revealed in this handout photo during an FBI news conference in Boston, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

Reporting By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

Boston bomb suspect identified, no arrest


BREAKING NEWS — UPDATES HERE

[UPDATE: 12 p.m.] “Contrary to widespread reporting, there have been no arrests made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack,” the FBI said in a statement.  “Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate.  Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting.”

[UPDATE: 11:43 a.m.] Boston Police, U.S. attorney in Boston say no arrest made in investigation of Boston Marathon bombing.

[11:29 a.m.] There have been no arrests made yet in the bombings at the Boston Marathon that left three people dead and scores injured, U.S. government and law enforcement sources said on Wednesday.

One of the sources said there was no one in custody either.

[11:00 am] Authorities have arrested a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings based on security video that showed a man depositing a bag at the scene before the blasts, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing U.S. and Boston law enforcement sources.

A U.S. law enforcement source told Reuters that a suspect had been identified and that a formal announcement would be made later in the day.

The developments are the biggest publicly-disclosed breaks since Monday's blast at the marathon finish line killed three people and injured 176 others. Investigators were searching through thousands of pieces of evidence from cell phone pictures to shrapnel shards pulled from victims' legs.

Based on shards of metal, fabric, wires and a battery recovered at the scene, the focus turned to whoever may have made bombs in pressure cooker pots and taken them in heavy black nylon bags to the finish line of the world-famous race watched by crowds of spectators.

A stretch of Boston's Boylston Street almost a mile long and blocks around it remained closed as investigators searched for clues in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the hijacked plane strikes of Sept. 11, 2001.

Cities across the United States were on edge after Monday's blasts in Boston. Adding to the nervousness was the announcement that mail containing a suspicious substance addressed to a lawmaker and to President Barack Obama. The FBI said, however, that agents had found no link the attack in Boston.

The blasts at the finish line of Monday's race injured 176 people and killed three: an 8-year old boy, Martin Richard, a 29-year-old woman, Krystle Campbell and a Boston University graduate student who was a Chinese citizen.

Boston University identified the student as Lu Lingzi.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

“Whether it's homegrown, or foreign, we just don't know yet. And so I'm not going to contribute to any speculation on that,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who until January was Massachusetts' senior senator. “It's just hard to believe that a Patriots' Day holiday, which is normally such time of festivities, turned into bloody mayhem.”

FBI ASKS WITNESSES FOR PHOTOS

The FBI was leading the investigation and asking witnesses to submit any photos of the blast site — which was crowded with tens of thousands of spectators, race staff and volunteers and runners. Many of them have turned in thousands of images, authorities said.

“Probably one of the best ways to get a lead is to go through those images and track down people coming and going with backpacks,” said Randy Law, an associate professor of history at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and author of “Terrorism: A History.”

“It's the needle in the haystack but when you have the resources that the local and federal authorities have, they can go through what I'm sure will be thousands and thousands of photos and hours of videos. You can find something occasionally,” Law said.

The head of trauma surgery at Boston Medical Center, which was still treating 19 victims on Wednesday, said his hospital was collecting the shards of metal, plastic, wood and concrete they had pulled from the injured to save for law enforcement inspectors. Other hospitals were doing the same.

“We've taken on large quantities of pieces,” Dr. Peter Burke of Boston Medical Center told reporters “We send them to the pathologists and they are available to the police.”

NYLON FRAGMENTS, BALL BEARINGS AND NAILS

Bomb scene pictures produced by the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force and released on Tuesday show the remains of an explosive device including twisted pieces of a metal container, wires, a battery and what appears to be a small circuit board.

One picture shows a few inches of charred wire attached to a small box, and another depicts a half-inch (1.3 cm) nail and a zipper head stained with blood. Another shows a Tenergy-brand battery attached to black and red wires through a broken plastic cap. Several photos show a twisted metal lid with bolts.

The nickel metal hydride battery typically is used by remote-controlled car enthusiasts, said Benjamin Mull, a vice president at Tenergy Corp. The batteries, made in Shenzhen, China, are sold on the internet and in hundreds of outlets.

People at the company “were shocked and appalled” when they learned their battery had been used in the blast, he said.

Security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said instructions for building pressure-cooker bombs similar to the ones used in Boston can be found on the Internet and are relatively primitive.

Pressure cookers had also been discovered in numerous foiled attack plots in both the U.S. and overseas in recent years, including the failed Times Square bombing attempt on May 1, 2010, the officials said. Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball in Washington, Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Boston and Terril Yue Jones in Beijing; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Grant McCool

Suspect in custody in bomb threat investigation, says Wilshire Blvd. Temple statement


Statement to Wilshire Blvd. Temple congregants from Executive Director Howard Kaplan:

We have an update on the bomb threat at the Temple’s Mid-Wilshire campus today.  The LAPD blew up the suspicious package left in a car adjacent to the Temple and determined it did NOT contain any explosives.  The LAPD also has a suspect in custody.  The arrest was based largely on video footage supplied by our security team from the Temple’s surveillance cameras.  Moments ago, the LAPD gave the “all clear” after thoroughly investigating the entire Temple campus, including searches by four bomb-sniffing dogs.

We are pleased to have a successful resolution and will re-open a safe and secure campus tomorrow morning for all of our programs.  We are grateful to the Temple’s terrific internal security team, and to the LAPD and other law enforcement agencies who responded so quickly and thoroughly.

Howard Kaplan
Executive Director
Wilshire Boulevard Temple

Mumbai 2008 terror suspect arrested


Indian police have apprehended a man they believe to have guided the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Syed Zabiuddin Ansari, who allegedly guided the terrorists move by move as they carried out the attacks, was discovered after he opened a Facebook account with his own name, according to The Associated Press. He was living in Saudi Arabia on a Pakistani passport, raising funds and recruiting for the Islamist terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Among the 166 people who died in the attacks were six Jews killed at the Chabad center, including Rabbi Gavriel and Rivkah Holtzberg, who ran the center. Their son, then nearly 2 years old, was saved.

Besieged gunman boasted he brought France to its knees


A besieged gunman suspected of shooting dead seven people in the name of al Qaeda boasted to police on Wednesday he had brought France to its knees and said his only regret was not having been able to carry out his plans for more killings.

In an unfolding drama that has riveted France, about 300 police, some in body armor, cordoned off a five-story building in a suburb of Toulouse where the 24-year-old Muslim shooter, identified as Mohamed Merah, is holed up.

Authorities said the gunman, a French citizen of Algerian origin, had been to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he claimed to have received training from al Qaeda.

Merah told police negotiators he had killed three French soldiers last week and four people at a Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday to avenge the deaths of Palestinian children and because of the French army’s involvement in Afghanistan.

“He has no regrets, except not having more time to kill more people and he boasts that he has brought France to its knees,” Paris Prosecutor Francois Molins, part of the anti-terrorist unit leading the investigation, told a news conference.

The gunman, who filmed his killings with a small camera, had already identified another soldier and two police officers he wished to kill, Molins said. The gunman had repeated promises to surrender this evening to members of the elite RAID unit surrounding the house, which had been evacuated of its other residents.

“He has explained that he is not suicidal, that he does not have the soul of a martyr and that he prefers to kill but to stay alive himself,” Molins said.

President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is running for re-election in five weeks time, paid tribute at a ceremony in an army barracks in Montauban, near Toulouse, to the three soldiers of North African origin killed last week. A fourth soldier of Caribbean origin is in a coma.

“Our soldiers have not died in the way for which they had prepared themselves. This was not a death on the battlefield but a terrorist execution,” Sarkozy said, standing before three coffins draped in the French flag after paying his respects to bereaved relatives.

“We must remain united. We should in no way yield to discrimination or vengeance,” he said in his eulogy. “France can only be great in unity. We owe it to the memory of these men, we owe it to the three murdered children, to all the victims.”

Sarkozy’s appeal for national unity came after far-right leader Marine Le Pen, a rival presidential candidate, said France should wage war on Islamic fundamentalism.

Interior Minister Claude Gueant said Merah was a member of an ideological Islamic group in France but this organization was not involved in plotting any violence.

He said Merah had thrown a Colt 45 pistol of the kind used in all the shootings out of a window of the block of flats, where he has been living, in exchange for a mobile phone, but was still armed.

Two police officers were injured in a firefight with the gunman after police swooped at 3 a.m. local time.

Police sources said they had conducted a controlled explosion of the suspect’s car at around 9:00 a.m. GMT after discovering it was loaded with weapons. Officials said police had also arrested Merah’s girlfriend and his brother, who is also known to authorities as a radical Islamist.

RAID

Gueant said Merah had contacted the first soldier he attacked on the pretext of wanting to buy his motorcycle.

Investigators identified the IP address he used – that of his mother – because he was already under surveillance for radical Islamist beliefs.

“We knew, and that is why he was under surveillance, that he had traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the minister said.

Merah’s telephone was tapped from Monday and with the help of other information the police decided to raid his house. Merah has a criminal record in France, Gueant said, but nothing indicating such an attack was possible.

A police source told Reuters that investigators had also received a tip-off from a scooter repair shop in Toulouse where the gunman asked to change the color of the Yamaha scooter used to flee the shootings and to remove a GPS tracker device.

A group of young men from Merah’s neighbourhood described him as a polite man of slight build who liked football and motorbikes and did not seem particularly religious.

“He isn’t the big bearded guy that you can imagine, you know the cliche,” said Kamal, who declined to give his family name. “When you know a person well you just can’t believe they could have done something like this.”

Sarkozy had been informed of the standoff early in the morning, officials said. The president’s handling of the crisis could be a decisive factor in determining how the French people vote in the two-round presidential elections in April and May.

The Jewish victims from the Ozar Hatorah school were buried in Jerusalem on Wednesday. Parliament speaker Reuben Rivlin said in his eulogy at the hill-top cemetery that the attack was inspired by “wild animals with hatred in their hearts”.

Authorities said on Tuesday that the gunman had apparently filmed his rampage through the school with a camera strapped to his body. He wounded Rabbi Jonathan Sandler as he entered the building, then shot an 8-year-old girl in the head, before returning to kill Sandler and his two children, who had rushed to his side, at point blank range.

Immigrants and Islam have been major themes of the campaign after Sarkozy tried to win over the voters of Le Pen, who accused the government on Wednesday of underestimating the threat from fundamentalism.

“We must now wage this war against these fundamentalist political and religious groups that are killing our children, that are killing our Christian children, our Christian young men, young Muslim men and Jewish children,” she told the i-Tele news channel, questioning the decision to deploy in Afghanistan.

But leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities said the gunman was a lone extremist.

France’s military presence in Afghanistan has divided the two main candidates in the election. Socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande has said he will pull them out by the end of this year while Sarkozy aims for the end of 2013.

Additional reporting by Brian Love, Daniel Flynn and Geert de Clercq in Paris; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Giles Elgood

India issues arrest warrants against Iranians in car bombing


India has issued arrest warrants for three Iranians in connection with a bomb attack on an Israeli Embassy car.

A New Delhi court issued the arrest warrants on Wednesday, marking the first time that India officially has linked the Feb. 13 attack to Iran. The attack injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat,

The men named in the warrants reportedly left the country immediately after the attack, The Times of India reported.

The Indian Express quoted an unnamed security source as saying that the men entered and left the country separately, and that their travel details have been documented.

The government reportedly will ask Interpol to issue international arrest warrants.

Indian journalist Syed Mohammed Kazmi was arrested last week in connection with the attack. He reportedly was in touch with an Iranian intelligence officer and visited Iran prior to the car bombing.

Israel has blamed Iran for the New Delhi explosion, as well as an attempted bombing at the Israeli Embassy in Tiblisi, Georgia, on the same day and an explosion the following day in Thailand.

Hollywood synagogue arson suspect faces felony charges


A man suspected of setting a fire in a Southern California synagogue is facing 19 felony charges of burglary and arson.

Dmitry Sheyko, 21, is in custody in Los Angeles, charged with the April 14 fire at Temple Israel of Hollywood, according to The Associated Press. He is charged as well with breaking into several homes near Beverly Hills.

Sheyko, who has pleaded not guilty, is being held on $3 million bail. A hearing is set for May 2. 

Los Angeles Police Department detectives told The Los Angeles Times that they do not believe the synagogue break-in and fire were hate crimes.

Students at Temple Israel’s day school were evacuated on the morning of the attempted arson, but programming resumed soon afterward, according to the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

It was the second incident at a Southern California synagogue within a week. Ron Hirsch, a 60-year-old transient, is under arrest for setting off a pipe bomb April 7 near the Chabad of Santa Monica.

Suspect identified in Indiana U. anti-Semitic attack


A suspect has been identified in a series of attacks on Jewish targets at Indiana University.

An arrest warrant was issued against university employee Mark Zacharias on a charge of felony institutional criminal mischief. He was expected to turn himself in to police, according to reports.

Zacharias is the scholarship coordinator of IU’s Hutton Honors College Scholarship.

He is accused of using a rock to break the staff directory glass display case for the Robert A. and Sandra B. Borns Jewish Studies Program on Nov. 30.

Other recent incidents on the campus include rocks thrown through the windows of two campus Jewish student centers, and a rock thrown through the window of an apartment above the Chabad Jewish student center, located just off the university campus, nearly hitting a student and putting a hole in the opposite wall. In addition, eight religious volumes in Hebrew removed from shelves at a university library were urinated on in eight different bathrooms in the library area, according to reports.

Zacharias has not been officially connected to the other incidents.

Suspect in hate crime attack turns himself in


A second suspect in an alleged hate crime attack against a Jewish man in Eugene, Ore., has turned himself in.

The suspect was charged Wednesday with second-degree assault in connection with the attack.

Police first made an arrest in the case Monday.

The Jewish man, 33, was attacked twice an hour apart on Saturday night near the University of Oregon campus, according to the Oregonian newspaper. Two men punched and kicked him and, during the second assault, shouted anti-Semitic slurs.

Eugene Police Sgt. Kris Martes told KVAL News that the assault is considered a hate crime.

“The purpose and the motivation behind the crime, according to the victim, is his religious orientation,” Martes said.

The alleged attackers, all transients, reportedly knew each other.

Jewish-Black Ties Loosen Over Years


 

The storied tale of Jewish Northerners heading South in the 1960s to fight for blacks’ voting rights has taken its place as one of the most distinctive cross-cultural relationships in U.S. history.

Until now, the 1964 murders of three civil rights campaigners has been unresolved. The recent arrest of a suspect in the Mississippi murders of Andrew Goodwin and Michael Schwerner — both Jews — and James Chaney, a black man, has re-focused attention on a relationship once bound in blood.

As Jews prepare to mark Martin Luther King Day, however, to what extent have black-Jewish relations shifted from their historic marriage?

A long way, academics and Jewish community officials say.

The black-Jewish relationship began in the 1920s and 1930s as blacks moved into neighborhoods Jews were leaving. Still, Jewish businesses often remained, serving the black community.

A common bond rose in response to anti-Semitism and racism in the United States, culminating in the civil rights movement. But black riots against Jewish-owned businesses in the mid-1960s and the rise of black nationalism that carried undertones of anti-Semitism often polarized the groups.

Today, many of the flashpoints in the relationship, like Jesse Jackson’s 1984 reference to New York as “Hymietown” and the 1991 Crown Heights riots — when blacks rioted against Jews after a Lubavitch-driven vehicle accidentally hit and killed a black child in Brooklyn — are in the past. Reports of anti-Semitic remarks by black nationalists such as the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan also have tapered off.

Now, a new phase has dawned as both groups focus their energies on internal issues, and quieter ties have emerged. Whether the new phase will lead to a new, strengthened relationship or a cooler approach to one another remains in question.

“We’ve passed through a period of hostility and animosity,” said Murray Friedman, director of Temple University’s Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish History and author of “What Went Wrong: The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance” (Free Press, 1994).

“The black-Jewish alliance as it once was is dead,” he said. But “it has moved in the direction that has been normal in American life, where groups join together on certain issues and break apart on certain issues.”

Rabbi Marc Scheier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, and Russell Simmons, the foundation’s chairman, said in a statement that the recent arrest in the Mississippi murder case calls to mind the historic black-Jewish alliance and challenges members of both groups “to continue the ongoing struggle for human justice.”

In fact, blacks and Jews continue to come together to advocate for political issues ranging from civil rights legislation to Israel.

“There isn’t a day that goes by that the Black and Jewish caucuses on Capitol Hill don’t work together,” said Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, who is also on the NAACP board.

Saperstein said young, black NAACP board members also show an increasing interest in the Jewish community.

According to Saperstein, collaboration among blacks and Jews is strong across the country, and his own group’s black-Jewish activities are as robust as he can remember. Because of that, when tensions do arise, “there’s much greater disappointment and sometimes anger than when either of us has similar kinds of problems with other ethnic or religious minorities,” Saperstein said.

Sherry Frank also says that in her 24 years as director of the Atlanta Chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJCommittee), black-Jewish relations have grown stronger.

A black-Jewish coalition initiated by the American Jewish Committee has a mailing list of about 400 people, with approximately equal numbers of blacks and Jews, she said. Top black leaders in Atlanta invite local rabbis to speak at their pulpits, and Atlanta’s black mayor has helped raise funds for the local Jewish federation’s Super Sunday.

But Ann Schaffer, director of the AJCommittee’s Belfer Center for American Pluralism, said national relations aren’t so rosy. In comparison to Jews’ relations with other groups, “we’re not seeing the kind of reciprocity that we would like to see in the relationship” with blacks, she said.

Many black leaders are consumed with internal issues, such as job discrimination and lifting their people out of poverty, Schaffer explained. In addition, the black community “is not forthcoming” in defending Israel and condemning anti-Semitism, she said. In part, that’s because blacks identify with the Palestinians, who they see as disenfranchised like themselves, Schaffer added.

An AJCommittee 2000 study showed that few blacks feel much in common with Jews.

Yet anti-Semitism has never been as strong among blacks as among the mutual enemies of blacks and Jews, said Marshall Stevenson Jr., dean of social sciences and director of the National Center for Black-Jewish Relations at Dillard University in New Orleans, a black college heavily endowed by Jews. Anti-Semitism among black Muslims, for example, rarely is translated into action against Jews, he said.

Academics say the turning point in the black-Jewish relationship was the 1967 Six-Day War, which they say prompted Jews to turn inward and focus on Israel and the Jewish community’s concerns. In subsequent years, the Soviet Jewry movement occupied the energies of Jews who once had worked for civil rights, Temple University’s Friedman explained.

Around that time came the rise of black nationalism, which as part of its quest for black empowerment aimed to muster internal strength and resources and rejected Jewish outreach.

“Would Jews allow blacks to run their organizations?” was the rationale of the time, Stevenson said.

Both groups largely turned inward, a trend that continues today. The relationship is “more or less neutral today,” Stevenson said.

It takes a common threat to revive the relationship, he said — citing, for example, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s runs for the U.S. Senate and the Louisiana governorship.

“For there to be any kind of serious dialogue, there would have to be a major kind of racial backlash in this country that would affect African Americans and Jews,” Stevenson said.

Renewed relations also could come about as a result of efforts to strengthen the Democratic Party, he said. In the 2004 presidential election, about 75 percent of Jews voted Democratic. Among blacks, the proportion was even higher, 89 percent.

Friedman, who views the landscape of relations as a “return to normalcy,” frames Jews’ civil rights agenda as a Jewish quest for identity. Jewish civil rights workers would cite the Jewish values of social justice, but “they didn’t know a blessed thing about Judaism.” Goodwin and Schwerner were even buried as Unitarians, he said.

“We were finding our own identity by working through another group,” said Friedman, who himself labored for civil rights until a growing sense of Jewish identity landed him squarely in the field of Jewish studies.

Jewish groups also are less involved in race relations today than they once were, focusing now on buttressing Jewish causes and identities.

“Saperstein believes both agendas are intertwined.

“In America, the treatment of the black community remains a symbol of the hope for equality and justice for all people in America, and we who have been persecuted so often as a minority have a deep feeling that we have to stand by those who are persecuted more than we are today in America,” Saperstein said.

“What we do on behalf of a group like the African American community and with the African American community,” he continued, “is a test of whether or not we’ll live up to the values and the lessons of our history.”

 

World Briefs


Hijack Suspect’s Extradition Sought

Israeli officials are planning to seek the extradition from Turkey of an Israeli Arab who tried to hijack an El Al flight Sunday. According to Israel Radio, attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein said Wednesday the extradition request is being drawn up for Tawfik Fukara, who allegedly wanted to crash the plane into a Tel Aviv high-rise. Security officials aboard the Tel Aviv-Ankara flight tackled him when he rushed the cockpit and turned him over to Turkish authorities when the flight safely landed. Turkish television reported that Fukara told authorities he wanted to “make the voice of the Palestinian people heard.” Israeli authorities have said Fukara was inspired by the Sept. 11 hijackers.

Poll: Palestinians Divided OverConflict

Palestinians are divided over whether the conflict with Israel is helping achieve their goals, according to a new poll. Conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, the poll showed 39 percent believe the conflict was helping achieve a Palestinian state. Another 36 percent believe it is not helping and 25 percent have no opinion. The poll of more than 1,000 Palestinians has a margin of error of 3 percent.

Second-Century Artifacts Found

Papyrus scrolls dating to the second-century Jewish rebellion against the Romans were discovered in a Judean desert cave. Researchers from the Hebrew University, Bar Ilan University and Stanford University discovered the scrolls after rappelling into the cave in the Ein Gedi reserve. They also found crude arrowheads and coins bearing the Hebrew name “Shimon,” a reference to the leader of the rebellion against the Roman army, Shimon Bar Kochba. A Hebrew University researcher said the items probably belonged to Jews from the Ein Gedi region who hid in the remote cave to escape the Roman army.

Museum of Tolerance Planned forJerusalem

The Simon Wiesenthal Center is slated to unveil plans for a new $150 million tolerance center in Jerusalem. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the center’s founder and dean, will be joined Sunday in Jerusalem by architect Frank Gehry, where they will discuss the goals and design of the Center for Human Dignity-Museum of Tolerance Jerusalem. As part of Sunday’s events, the architect’s models for the center will be unveiled at the president’s residence.

UJC Debates Birthright Funding

The umbrella group of North American federations is considering a resolution to pay $39 million to Birthright Israel. At the General Assembly in Philadelphia, the United Jewish Communities’ (UJC) board of trustees debated a resolution Wednesday to pay a share of the program to send 18-26 year olds who have never been to Israel on an organized trip. Currently, 20 percent of federations have not paid for the program, according to Stephen Hoffman, UJC president. The proposed resolution would require all federations to increase their donations to Birthright by 33 percent over last year. The resolution will be voted on within 30 days, Hoffman said. The Jewish Agency for Israel would share in the cost. Meanwhile, UJC voted Wednesday to administer a tax-exempt bond pool for member federations.

New Jersey Rabbi Convicted in MurderTrial

A New Jersey rabbi was convicted for arranging the murder of his wife. Rabbi Fred Neulander could receive the death penalty for hiring two hit men to kill his wife, Carol, in 1994. Wednesday’s verdict came nearly a year after the first trial ended in a hung jury.

Senate Passes Terrorism Insurance Bill

The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would shift most of the insurance costs of terrorist attacks onto the federal government. The bill is expected to result in lower insurance premiums for property and casualty insurance. It is a boon for Jewish federations and other groups that have faced skyrocketing premiums since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The bill, which passed the Senate 86-11 on Tuesday after passing the House last week, provides insurance companies with up to $100 billion in government protection against losses from terrorist attacks. President Bush is expected to sign the legislation next week.

Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Rabbis to the Rescue


"It’s a little bit unnerving for an Orthodox Jewish boy from Brooklyn," says Rabbi Chaim Kolodny, after he found himself an instant media celebrity for tracking down a suspected serial rapist.

"Every local TV and radio station and newspapers from as far away as New York must have called me Friday when I was trying to get ready for Shabbos," adds the 31-year-old Kolodny, director of the Cheder of Los Angeles boys’ and girls’ schools.

Kolodny, together with Rabbi Shmuel Manne, 34, and other members of the group Hatzolah are credited by police with a piece of skilled amateur sleuthing, which led to the arrest of a man believed responsible for a series of sexual attacks on elderly women in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood.

Hatzolah (Hebrew for rescue) was formed a year ago as the city’s only volunteer emergency medical service. It operates in a 2-square-mile area, with Beverly Boulevard and La Brea Avenue as its axis. The neighborhoods are largely populated by elderly Jews, Holocaust survivors and Russian immigrants, who often feel more at ease reporting problems to someone who speaks their language.

As Kolodny relates it, his ascent to fame started quietly enough at noon on Thursday, Aug. 15, when he attended a regular monthly meeting between local police officers and neighborhood clergy. This time, however, LAPD Deputy Chief David Kalish and City Councilmen Jack Weiss and Tom LaBonge were on hand to show their concern about the four sexual assaults and four more attempted assaults in the area, apparently by the same suspect, over the last few weeks.

At the meeting, Kalish passed out composite drawings of the suspect, described as white or Hispanic, while Kolodny translated the appeals for community help into Yiddish for later local broadcast.

"My two bubbies [grandmothers] spoke only Yiddish to me," Kolodny told The Journal. "They are still alive and kicking — may they be well."

Kolodny grabbed the last two copies of the drawing, which he e-mailed widely, and then ran off 1,000 copies for posting and distribution.

At 7:30 p.m., he received a call from Manne, who reported that Hatzolah volunteer Abraham Matyas had spotted a man who seemed to fit the description of the suspect. The three men rendezvoused at a minimall, and peering into an ice cream parlor, observed a customer who attracted their attention.

"From the back, he looked older than the sketch of the suspect," says Kolodny, but the three volunteers, in separate cars, decided to follow the man as he started walking, occasionally stopping to ring the doorbells of darkened homes.

The two rabbis decided to "bracket" the man, with Manne driving 100 feet ahead of him, and Kolodny the same distance behind him. "We were in phone contact, and decided that if the guy bolted, we would take him down," Kolodny recalls.

It was getting dark outside, and at one point the man stopped under a streetlight. Kolodny got a good look at his face, quickly compared it to the drawing and said to himself, "Gotcha."

He immediately called police, while at the same time the man, apparently realizing that he was being followed, turned to confront Kolodny’s car, screamed at him and seemed ready to lunge at the vehicle.

Kolodny pulled away in a quick U-turn and as he was driving away, looked in his rearview mirror and saw "the happiest sight of my life," a police cruiser with two policewomen — "Two angels in blue," Kolodny says — who searched and arrested the man.

"This was a surreal, out-of-body experience," Kolodny says. "I’m no James Bond, and I was scared that if we had gotten the wrong guy, or he made bail, he would come after me."

Kolodny believes he was guided throughout "by yad Hashem" — the hand of God — and described himself and fellow volunteers as "His lowly messengers."

Arrested was Gary David Johnson, 41, who, police say, has a lengthy criminal record in California and three East Coast states, and who served two years in prison for burglary.

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office announced Monday that Johnson has been charged with 20 felony counts, including forcible rape, sexual battery, burglary and robbery.

"This guy ain’t going anywhere," police assured Kolodny.

Kolodny himself is a voluble and energetic man, who directs the boys’ and girls’ schools with a total enrollment of 270, is involved in Hatzolah and other community work and with his wife, Shoshanah, is raising six children, ranging in age from 8 months to 10 years. He gets along on four to five hours sleep a night.

Describing himself as a "proud Haredi," or ultra-Orthodox Jew, Kolodny counts among his ancestors and relatives Lubavitch and Gur Chasidim, as well as secular Jews. He says that he received his smicha (rabbinical ordination) in Israel, but is unconcerned about titles. "Some people call me rabbi, and some call me Chaim," he says.

Kolodny had a problem when TV crews asked to shoot some footage at the Cheder of Los Angeles on La Brea. "Our students are ultra-Orthodox, and none has a television set at home," he says. He didn’t consider it appropriate to have television and other cameras at the school, and persuaded the members of the media to satisfy themselves with exterior shots of the school building.

Hatzolah, which is modeled on the older and much larger operation in New York, has some 30 members, trained as emergency medical technicians. Because of their close networking with their community, volunteers are often first on the scene, but turn over cases as soon as city or county emergency personnel arrive.

The organization has dealt with its share of heart attacks and other serious incidents, but also with superficial scratches and other mundane problems. The latter category is called GMG or "gornisht mit gornisht," Yiddish for "nothing with nothing."

Kolodny says that in the Beverly-La Brea area, which includes parts of Hancock Park, mid-Wilshire and Hollywood, crime is not endemic, "but is inching up like anywhere else." Most crimes consist of home robberies, car break-ins and thefts, says Kolodny, who praises the excellent police work in the area.

Nevertheless, "we don’t allow our kids to walk alone, and when we come home from shul in the evening, we try to walk in pairs," he says.

The sleuthing by the Hatzolah volunteers may ultimately benefit their organization. A reward of $25,000 has been posted for the conviction of the serial rapist, and if this happens, Kolodny and Manne plan to use the money to buy defibrillators, devices that can revive heart attack victims.

Suspect Indicted in Murder of JDL’s Krugel


Almost nine months after the brutal prison-yard slaying of Earl Krugel, the longtime No. 2 man in the Jewish Defense League (JDL), federal authorities have indicted an inmate with no apparent ties to Krugel.

The suspect, David Frank Jennings, 30, allegedly attacked Krugel from behind with a piece of concrete hidden in a bag while Krugel was using an exercise machine at a federal prison in Phoenix.



The indictment, issued by a federal grand jury on July 19, offers neither details nor motive, asserting that Jennings “with premeditation and malice aforethought willfully kill and murder Earl Leslie Krugel.”



Jennings is the only person charged in the killing that took place in plain view. Authorities contend that Jennings acted alone.



“He was the only one charged. There was no conspiracy,” said Ann Harwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Phoenix, Authorities would say little else, including anything about the motive of the alleged killer, a small-time repeat offender with nothing in his rap sheet to suggest either this level of violence or any particular animosity toward the 62-year-old Krugel.



Krugel had been transferred to the Federal Corrections Institute (FCI) Phoenix, a medium security prison, just three days before the assault. To date, there is no indication that Krugel and Jennings knew each other. “My husband was brutally murdered just a few days after he was sent to that prison,” Lola Krugel said. “He wasn’t there long enough to make any deadly enemies.”



At the time of Krugel’s attack, Jennings was serving a 70-month sentence at FCI Phoenix for a 2003 bank robbery in Las Vegas, which netted him $1,040. Because Jennings had threatened the teller during the robbery, authorities eventually extended his plea bargain sentence from 63 months to 70 months.



Jennings, who lived in Oregon before moving to Nevada, has multiple convictions, but court records reviewed by The Journal did not indicate any association with racist or anti-Semitic groups in or out of prison.

In 1993,Jennings was convicted in Oregon on an Assault III charge; a “class C” state felony, which resulted in an 18-month state prison sentence. In 1994 he was arrested and convicted for unauthorized use of a vehicle and sentenced to six months in jail. In 1995, a probation violation cost him another six months.



He had apparently moved to Nevada by 1996. That same year he was arrested and pleaded guilty to state charges of grand larceny and unlawful possession of a credit card, for which he received a sentence of 16 to 72 months in state prison.



Krugel was transferred to the Phoenix facility to serve out the balance of a 20-year sentence, following his negotiated guilty plea to conspiracy, weapons and explosives charges. The high-profile case against Krugel and the JDL involved an abortive bombing plot against possible targets that included a Culver City mosque and the field office of Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), an Arab-American of Lebanese descent.



A fitness fanatic, Krugel was using exercise equipment when he was blind-sided between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Nov. 4, 2005. Details of the assault did not emerge in previous reports; a review of the autopsy depicts a vicious attack.



His main injury was the initial blow to the back of his head, which crushed the left side of his skull and severely damaged his brain and brain stem. But his attacker also delivered multiple blows to Krugel’s skull, face and neck, according to the autopsy, which was performed by the Maricopa County medical examiner and obtained by The Journal. Krugel suffered multiple skull fractures, internal bleeding and multiple lacerations to his head, face and brain. The beating knocked out teeth and also fractured one of his eye sockets. Krugel was pronounced dead at the scene.



His death marked the violent end, in prison, for both local leaders of an organization that advocated the use of violence, as necessary, in defending the interests of Jews. JDL head Irv Rubin died in 2002, at 57, from injuries he suffered after jumping or falling from a railing inside the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles. Authorities ruled Rubin’s death a suicide, though family members contested that finding. Krugel, a dental technician by trade, was Rubin’s longtime close friend and second-in-command.



Krugel and Rubin were arrested in late 2001. They were accused, in the months following the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes, of plotting violent revenge against Muslims and Arabs. No attack was carried out. Krugel spent four years in federal lock-up in Los Angeles. It was the resolution of his case, with the guilty plea to reduced charges, that landed him in Phoenix.



Lola Krugel said she’s relieved that someone has finally been charged in her husband’s murder. But she and Krugel’s sister, Linda, both expressed frustration and anger over the time it took to make an arrest, as well as the FBI’s unwillingness to share information with the family.



“He did it right there in the open,” said Lola Krugel, referring to the attacker. “There had to be witnesses and cameras. So why did it take so long for them to charge this man?”



The delay was not foot-dragging but a desire to get it right, said Patrick Snyder, assistant U.S. Attorney in charge of the criminal division in the Phoenix office: “Since the murder occurred in prison, we know the assailant is already in custody. So we’re not under the same kind of time pressure to make an arrest that we are when a killer is still at large.”



Lola Krugel filed a wrongful-death claim against the federal government in February, which has since been denied. The family says it’s now preparing to file a civil lawsuit. The rejected claim had asked for $10 million for personal injury and $10 million for Krugel’s wrongful death.



“It’s an ‘outrage figure,'” said family attorney Benjamin Schonbrun, a partner in the Venice-area firm of Schonbrun, DeSimone, Seplow, Harris and Hoffman. “A figure to illustrate the outrage Lola Krugel feels over the murder of her husband, plus the anger she felt over her inability to get any information from the government.”

Our Gang


A reputed gangster who calls himself “a simple Jew from Kiev” has emerged as the central suspect in an international bank-fraud probe that investigators term the biggest money-laundering case in history.

The case involves an apparent scheme by Russian mobsters to launder billions of dollars in criminal proceeds through one of America’s oldest and most respected banks, the Bank of New York. The FBI’s yearlong investigation into the scheme was disclosed by the New York Times in a series of articles in late August.

Beyond the Times’ disclosures lies a far more complex story, reported piecemeal in a variety of publications here and abroad. Together they tell a hair-raising tale of international crime and intrigue by reputed crime boss Semyon Mogilevich and his so-called “Red Mafia.”

Mogilevich’s mob is said to be the largest and most dangerous criminal organization to emerge from the breakup of the Soviet Union; it’s engaged in arms dealing, drug smuggling, prostitution, contract murders and international art theft.

The gang has been described as resembling traditional Italian mafia groups in its hierarchy, brutality and reliance on family and ethnic ties. Most of its members are Jewish.

The money-laundering and related allegations, though, lift Mogilevich to a level of sophistication and influence rare in organized crime. They also hint at the magnitude of threat posed by Russian organized crime, both to Russia and the world at large.

Britain, in particular, has been investigating Mogilevich’s group for more than four years, seeking to unravel a worldwide network of shell companies implicated in money-laundering, contraband sales, stock manipulation and investor fraud. It was Britain’s National Criminal Intelligence Service that tipped off the FBI last year to Mogilevich’s apparent relationship with the Bank of New York.

Switzerland is also investigating the gang, on suspicion that it helped launder millions of dollars through Swiss banks for Russian government officials. Those cash movements began just before the August 1998 ruble devaluation that led to Russian financial chaos. Some say Kremlin officials traded on their inside knowledge of policy plans, bleeding the country.

Part of the laundered money — at least $200 million, by some accounts — may have come from International Monetary Fund aid. The IMF is now facing criticism in Washington for sloppy oversight. That, in turn, could hurt the presidential hopes of Vice President Al Gore, a key architect of the IMF’s Russia policies. The GOP-led House Banking Committee is holding hearings on the allegations later this month.

Others whose names have surfaced in the mushrooming probe include several so-called “oligarchs,” the business tycoons, many of them Jewish, who control much of post-communist Russia’s privatized industry. Those mentioned include Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a leading banker and oil executive; Boris Berezovsky, formerly a ranking Yeltsin aide; and Vladimir Goussinsky, president of the Russian Jewish Congress. All three headed Russian banks that have been implicated in the Mogilevich investigations.

Another “oligarch” implicated is Konstantin Kagalovsky, a close ally of Khodorkovsky. His wife, Natasha Gurfinkel, headed Bank of New York’s East Europe operations until she was suspended last month.

Nobody has formally been accused of any wrongdoing.

Russian Jewry experts fear the allegations may help fuel Russia’s already rampant anti-Semitism, by seeming to confirm extremist myths about Jewish “rape” of Mother Russia. All told, Mogilevich’s mob may have looted as much as $15 billion from the Russian economy in the last few years. “It can’t help but have an impact,” said Isabella Ginor, a leading Israeli analyst of post-Soviet affairs.

Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich, 53, was born in Kiev and graduated from the University of Lvov with a degree in economics. An Israeli citizen since the early 1990s, he currently operates from Hungary, where he is married to a local woman.

He has been known to law enforcement authorities for decades, and is a familiar figure in the Russian media. In the West, though, he was virtually unknown until May 1998, when he was profiled in a lengthy article in the Village Voice by investigative reporter Robert Friedman.

Friedman went into hiding shortly afterward, at the urging of the FBI, which told him Mogilevich had taken out a $100,000 contract on his life. He is currently writing a book about Russian organized crime.

As described by Friedman, Mogilevich first became involved in petty crime in Moscow in the 1970s. He made millions in the 1980s by bilking Jews leaving for Israel, promising to sell their valuables for them after they left, then pocketing the proceeds.

He spent the 1990s allegedly building his Red Mafia from his new base in Budapest, sending lieutenants to acquire legitimate companies in England, Canada, Australia, the United States, the Caribbean and elsewhere, then using them as covers for his illegal activities.

Activities cited by Friedman include a sale of $20 million in stolen East Bloc weaponry to Iran, the theft and resale of Torah scrolls, a scheme to dump American toxic waste in Chernobyl — in cooperation with the Genovese crime family — and a phony antique restoration shop that took in Russian art treasures and sent fakes back to the owners, while the originals were secretly sold at Sotheby’s in London.

Britain appears to have been a favorite base for Mogilevich’s financial schemes. In 1995, British authorities shut down a firm he had created there to launder funds from his worldwide criminal activities. In 1997, authorities began investigating a far more complex scheme, in which he acquired a Hungarian magnet factory, incorporated it in Philadelphia, then took it public on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1994. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock was sold, yet few magnets were produced. Federal authorities, tipped by Britain, shut the firm down for securities fraud last spring.

The magnet probe led British investigators to Benex, a London-based firm allegedly controlled by Mogilevich. It was set up in March 1998 for the sole apparent purpose of transferring funds out of Russia.

Benex’s only officer, reputed Mogilevich lieutenant Peter Berlin, is married to Lucy Edwards, the Bank of New York officer who was fired last week for her apparent role in the money-laundering scheme.

Edwards, born Ludmilla Pritzker in Leningrad, has declined to comment so far. Berlin has disappeared, and knowledgeable observers suggest he may turn up floating in the Thames.

As for Mogilevich, he granted an interview to a Moscow newspaper this week and insisted that the only money he ever laundered was $5 left in a shirt on wash day. The whole affair, he claimed, is “the raving of the FBI.”


J.J. Goldberg writes a weekly column for The Jewish Journal.