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One of two men charged with conspiring t

August 1, 1997

HEBRON, West Bank (AP) _ One of two men charged with conspiring to set off bombs in the New York City subway may have ``gotten involved with the wrong people,″ his uncle said today.

Lafi Khalil ``has only been in America for a very short period,″ Suhail Khalil told The Associated Press in an interview at his home in the West Bank village of Ajoul.

Lafi Khalil, a former resident of Ajoul, and Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, formerly of the West Bank city of Hebron, were arrested with a bomb cache in a New York City apartment on Thursday.

Relatives of Lafi Khalil, 22, and Abu Mezer, 23, told the AP the men had never been involved in political or militant Islamic groups.

Khalil and Abu Mezer were shot during the raid. They were hospitalized with wounds that were not considered life-threatening. Police said they feared the men were about to detonate the bombs.

Police found a Jordanian passport, although they did not know if it was legitimate, and a complete application for political asylum in the United States in a bag belonging to Abu Mezer, according to court papers. Jordanian officials later said they had no record of either man.

Suhail Khalil said his nephew moved to Aqaba, Jordan, in November 1996 with his family. From there, he got a visa to Mexico, and then traveled to Los Angeles. A few months ago, he moved to the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

``When he first went to Brooklyn his financial situation was not good,″ Suhail Khalil said. ``He may have gotten involved with the wrong people who took advantage of his needing a place to stay.

``His presence in the apartment that was raided is nothing but just being there and not knowing what was going on around him.″

Suhail Khalil said he had spoken to his nephew about three weeks ago. ``He was fine, sounded happy,″ he said. ``He told me had plans to marry an Arab-American.″

His nephew’s dream was to live in the United States and get a green card, Suhail Khalil said.

``It’s impossible in such a short time for him to be transformed so drastically and get involved with a political group that carried bombs,″ he said. ``That is not realistic and I don’t believe it.″

Abu Mezer’s brother Noor said he was shocked to hear about his brother’s arrest. Police said Abu Mezer admitted the explosives were to be used in terrorist attacks on New York’s subway system.

``It’s impossible my brother would do something like that,″ Noor Abu Mezer said. ``He’s a nonviolent person and a person who loves peace.″

Noor said his brother left Hebron ``to get away from the suffering of the people who are living here.″

``He was looking for a good future for himself.″

Gazi went to Canada, planning to study business administration, his brother said. After studying English, he took a restaurant job to earn money. At some point, he moved to the United States.

Just last week, he said, the family spoke to Gazi on the phone, and Gazi told them he had an American girlfriend.

``He said he was going to marry her and asked if she could come here and live in Hebron,″ Noor said.

Noor said his brother was not religious and had no connection with any political party. Neighbors also said he was not religious or political.

In 1990, he was arrested for allegedly throwing stones during the Palestinian uprising, or intifadah, but was released after 15 days, his brother said.

``My brother would not harm the American people,″ Noor said. ``He used to say that they are nice people and lovely hospitable people, and he was going to marry one of them. How he can harm them?″

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