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Alleged Bombing Mastermind Says Attacks Were ‘Not Correct’

March 6, 1996

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ The man who allegedly recruited three of four suicide-bombers who have killed scores in Israel told Palestinian radio that the bombings were a mistake and have hurt the Palestinian people.

``We did not make a correct assessment of the situation,″ a subdued Mohammed Abu Wardeh, who has been under arrest by Palestinian police since Sunday night, told the Voice of Palestine radio station Tuesday.

``I’m fully convinced that as a result of these operations we have negative consequences.″

Today, PLO leader Yasser Arafat approved a sentence of life with hard labor for Abu Wardeh, who was convicted of plotting terrorist attacks Tuesday night by a Jericho court.

The hasty trial _ Abu Wardeh was not present _ was apparently an attempt to ward off any extradition request by Israel.

In the interview, which seemed clearly orchestrated by Palestinian authorities, Abu Wardeh said he would appeal to his fellow members of Izzedine al Qassam, the Hamas military wing that has claimed responsibility for the suicide-bombings, to ``serve the interests of the Palestinian people.″

``I appeal to all our brothers to stop these activities immediately, and to stop any military action,″ he said.

Abu Wardeh, 21, is a second-year student at the U.N.-run Ramallah Teachers’ Training College in Ramallah, where one of the bombers was also a student.

Raed Shaghnoubi, 20, blew himself up on a Jerusalem city bus during morning rush-hour Sunday, killing himself and 18 others.

Police raided the college the same day, arresting dozens of students. More than a dozen were still in custody today.

Palestinian police Col. Hussein Sheik said Abu Wardeh recruited not only Shaghnoubi, but also the bombers in two previous suicide-bombings _ his cousin, Majdi Abu Wardeh from the West Bank refugee camp of Al Fawar, and Majdi’s neighbor, Ibrahim Sarahneh.

Reporters were barred from the college and local U.N. officials refused comment on the police allegations. Many schools in Palestinian areas are run by the United Nations.

Palestinian security sources said Mohammed Abu Wardeh received his instructions via coded messages from Hamas leaders abroad, and Israel TV said his handlers were based in Damascus, Syria.

In the radio interview, Abu Wardeh said he was recruited by another student at the college, who is now in jail.

Relatives of Shaghnoubi said he had sought revenge ever since Israeli undercover troops shot his older brother, Mohammed, in the legs four years ago, during the 1987-93 Palestinian uprising.

In his late teens, Shaghnoubi began talking about becoming a suicide-bomber, Mohammed said. ``If I have a chance to do it, I will,″ Shaghnoubi would tell anyone willing to listen.

Early Tuesday, troops sealed the two-room Shaghnoubi house in the West Bank village of Burka.

A day earlier, soldiers had welded shut the homes of Majdi Abu Wardeh, 19, and Sarahneh, 26. Sealing homes until they could be demolished was a common punishment used by Israel during the uprising.

Majdi Abu Wardeh, who relatives described as deeply religious, blew himself up Feb. 25 in Jerusalem in the first of the four attacks. All he left behind was a passport photograph of himself, with the words, ``Farewell, Izzedine al Qassam″ scribbled on the back.

Sarahneh blew himself up at a hitchhiking post in the coastal city of Ashkelon the same day. The bomber in Monday’s attack in Tel Aviv has not yet been identified but Palestinian police did not rule out a link to the college.

Sarahneh had been arrested by Israeli troops three times. In December 1992, he was among 400 Muslim militants rounded up by Israel for deportation to Lebanon, but in the end was jailed instead.

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