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Accused Would-Be Bomber Was Recruited By Promises of Paradise

March 18, 1996

JERUSALEM (AP) _ A Muslim militant accused of planning to carry out a suicide bombing during President Clinton’s visit says he was recruited by promises of virgins in paradise and divine forgiveness for his family.

Palestinian police arrested Rashid Mohammed Ibrahim Saqer, 22, last week, a Palestinian security source disclosed Sunday. On Monday, Israel radio interviewed him in his Gaza City jail cell.

Saqer told the interviewer that the Islamic Jihad group recruited him to carry out the attack in Tel Aviv last Wednesday, the day Clinton arrived in Israel following an anti-terrorism summit in Egypt.

``Do you believe in suicide bombing?″ the interviewer asked him.

``No,″ Saqer said. ``They spoke to me about martyrdom and convinced me.″

``How did they manage to convince you to die?″ the interviewer asked.

``He told me, `You will get 73 virgins in paradise,′ ″ Saqer said. ``He told me that a martyr can get divine forgiveness for his relatives. I was convinced.″

He said he was paid $6,000 for the planned operation.

Saqer, a resident of the village of Shujaeiyeh in the Gaza Strip, refused to say who recruited him.

Asked what he would tell other militants planning suicide bombings, he said: ``I tell them, `Do not think about it at all.′ ″

``I thank the Palestinian Authority for arresting me before I carried out the operation,″ he said in a comment apparently orchestrated by Yasser Arafat’s government, which is under severe Israeli pressure to crack down on Islamic terror cells in Palestinian lands.

The Palestinian security source who disclosed Saqer’s arrest said the suspect planned to blow himself up at a bus stop or in a crowded Tel Aviv neighborhood.

The source, who asked not to be identified, said Saqer was arrested a few days before Clinton’s arrival. Clinton stayed overnight in Jerusalem, then visited Tel Aviv on Thursday before leaving Israel that evening.

The circumstances of Saqer’s arrest have not been disclosed, and it was not clear why the Palestinian government took a week to publicize that it had arrested a man suspected of staging an attack during Clinton’s visit.

More than 60 people were killed between Feb. 25 and March 4 in suicide bomb attacks in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the coastal town of Ashkelon.

The militant Islamic group Hamas claimed responsibility for the four bombings. Some reports said the Tel Aviv bombing was a joint operation with Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for deadly bombings in the past.

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