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Bin Laden planning attacks in Israel - U.S. report

WASHINGTON, Aug 21 (Reuters) -- Supporters of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden may be planning attacks in Israel to try to thwart the Middle East peace process, a U.S. congressional report warned on Monday.

The Congressional Research Service said the presence of bin Laden operatives in Jordan and Lebanon suggested his organization may be planning bombings and other attacks on neighboring Israel.

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In its annual report, called "Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2000," it said some members of the Islamic resistance movement Hamas may be gravitating to bin Laden, who lives in exile in Afghanistan.

Palestinians previously have had little to do with bin Laden, charged in the United States with the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. But the report said many had become upset that Hamas leaders appeared resigned to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Coinciding with the reports's release, Israel announced on Monday that over the past few weeks it had arrested 23 suspected guerrillas who it said planned to carry out bombing attacks on Israelis and had links to bin Laden.

The Congressional Research Service report, written by Mideast specialist Kenneth Katzman, said there were "growing signs" that bin Laden may be maneuvering to further destabilize the region.

It cited Jordan's putting on trial of 28 people it and the United States said were involved in a bin Laden-linked plot late last year to attack U.S. and Israeli citizens celebrating the millennium. It also said Lebanon had tried 29 alleged followers for planning "terrorist" attacks.

The report said bin Laden's network, originally formed to fight against the former Soviet Union's occupation of Afghanistan, now encompasses members of major Islamic militant organizations including Egypt's Islamic Group and its ally Al-Jihad, Algeria's Armed Islamic Group, Pakistan's Harkat ul-Mujahideen, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and opposition groups in Saudi Arabia.

Copyright 2000 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.



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