American tourist stabbed to death near Jerusalem

Israeli police found the body of a female American tourist, with multiple stab wounds and her hands bound behind her back, in a forest outside Jerusalem today in what authorities believe was a politically-motivated attack by two Arab men.

A friend of the murdered woman survived, despite being knifed several times, and said the assailants at one point carefully removed her Star of David necklace and then stabbed her in the place it had rested on her chest.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld identified the murdered woman as Christine Logan. He said she was American and 40 years old but did not have her hometown.

The friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, a naturalised Israeli citizen originally from Britain, had been taken to hospital with light wounds, officials said.

With a massive manhunt under way for the assailants, Mr Rosenfeld said: "The main lead line is that the attack was nationalistic, but we haven't ruled out the possibility that it was criminal."

Police said there were no signs that Ms Wilson had been sexually assaulted or robbed.

Ms Wilson told Israeli media that two Arab men approached her and Ms Logan as they rested during a hike in the hills outside Jerusalem.

She said the men asked them for water, and then she and her friend walked away. Thinking the men had left, the women headed back to the main trail when suddenly they were attacked.

"It all happened so fast. They came and attacked us," Ms Wilson, 46, told reporters.

She said one of the men took out a knife that looked "like a bread knife with a serrated edge." Ms Logan then "became hysterical" and the men began to stab them, Ms Wilson said.

"It was clear that they came to kill," she added. "Who carries around a knife like that?"

At one point, Ms Wilson said one of the assailants gently took a Star of David chain off her neck, "then turned me around and stabbed in the place where the Star of David had been."

Ms Wilson said she pretended to be dead, even as she could hear her friend dying. She said she waited for two minutes, then made her way back to a car park lot several hundred yards away where she found help.

Hospital staff cut off the interview after about five minutes and refused to make her available for further comment.

After Ms Wilson reported the incident, police and paramedics launched a large-scale hunt and located Ms Logan's body early today buried under some bushes, about 20 yards from where the attack was believed to have occurred. The site is inside Israel, not far from the frontier with the West Bank.

Israeli police raided a hospital outside the nearby West Bank town of Bethlehem in search of suspects, believing the assailants might have been injured in the struggle.

"I saw there were ... jeeps and lots of soldiers surrounding the hospital," said Edmund Shehadeh, director of the Bethlehem Arab Society for Rehabilitation.

He said the troops wanted a list of patients and interviewed some doctors and nurses during the half-hour investigation. But by nightfall, no arrests had been made.

There was no claim of responsibility, which Palestinian militants usually make after deadly attacks. That suggested that the attack, even if politically motivated, was not planned by a militant group.

Police spokeswoman Mr Rosenfeld said he did not have Ms Logan's hometown. The US Embassy said it had no information on the case, but said it was in touch with Israeli authorities.

The killing occurred just ahead of Christmas - a peak tourist season for Israel and the Palestinians. Israel's Tourism Ministry declined to comment.

Dr Yuval Weiss, director of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, told Army Radio he expected Ms Wilson to be released within several days.

This would not be the first time that hikers were attacked and killed.

In the 1990s, four Israeli hikers were killed in two separate attacks in the West Bank.

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