German charged in Israel over suicide bomb plot

A 26-year-old German convert to Islam was charged in Tel Aviv yesterday with planning to blow himself up in a crowded Israeli street. He would have been the first European suicide in a bombing campaign which has claimed 21 Israeli lives since July.

Stefan Smirak, a Christian by birth, is alleged to have joined the Hizbollah Shia militia during a visit to Lebanon this autumn. Israel's Shin Bet internal-security service was waiting for him when he landed at Ben-Gurion airport on 28 November.

According to a police spokesman, Hizbollah trained him to handle weapons and explosives, then sent him home to Germany to get a new passport with no Lebanese stamps. From there he flew to Israel with orders to film potential targets in Tel Aviv and Haifa. After that he was supposed to go to Turkey, where a Hizbollah agent would instruct him on how to prepare the explosive and where to detonate it. He was picked up before he could carry out his reconnaissance mission.

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