Desperate flight of failed British suicide bomber

Daily Telegraph 6/9/06
By Nick Britten
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Britain's fiest suicide bomber fought with locals, escaped being held at knife point and evaded a huge police manhunt after his mission to blow up a cafe failed, an inquest heard yesterday.

  Attempts by Omar Sharif to escape justice after his botched attack in Israel were disclosed for the first time

Sharif, 27, from Derby, and another Briton, Asif Hanif, 21, from Hounslow, west London, travelled to the Middle East in 2003 intent on blowing themselves up.  

As Hanif's bomb went off, killing three people and injuring 65 in a packed bar next to the American embassy in Tel Aviv, Sharif's failed.

 

 In a statement read to the inquest, in Derby, Shmuel Cohen, a Tel Aviv resident, said he saw Sharif trying to dispose of the bomb in a bin.

"He lifted up his shirt and took out a white container with a black band of sticky-tape. He placed it in the bin.

 

 "He appeared to be under pressure and nervous and was looking from side to side, so I approached him and asked what he was doing."

Sharif ran off and Mr Cohen chased him for more than half a mile before he disappeared.

 

Minutes later Sharif attacked Yivgany Foroshin, a hotel guard, pinning him to the ground and stealing his wallet. Mr Foroshin said in a statement: "He spoke in English and quickly. I noticed he was sweating and had a cut on his forehead."

 

Sharif then flagged down a taxi driven by Alex Faliq, to get out of the area before police closed in. Mr Faliq said in a statement: "He said, 'Please hurry, please take me away from here. I will pay however much you want'."

 

The inquest heard that Sharif leapt from the cab when a man in another car pulled alongside and shouted: "Stop that man. He's a terrorist."

 

Mr Faliq, who had a knife, said he chased Sharif in his taxi then, when the streets became too narrow, on foot before cornering him.

 

"I caught up with him. My knife was drawn and open in my hand. I approached him, put the knife near his eye and said: 'Who are you?'

 

"I stood opposite him and kicked him in the testicles. It was a hard kick, but he didn't move. I kicked him again, but again he didn't move." Sharif ran off again, with Mr Faliq and another hotel security guard too exhausted to continue the pursuit.

 

Sharif, a former public schoolboy, was not seen again until a fortnight later, on May 12, when his decomposing body was discovered floating near the Tel Aviv seafront.

 

The inquest heard that Sharif and Hanif told friends that they were heading to the Middle East for "academic study", and boarded a Syrian Airlines flight to Damascus on April 10 2003.

 They moved between Israel and Gaza before taking a room in a Tel Aviv hostel recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide. Finally, in the early hours of April 30, they attacked Mike's Place, a seafront bar in a packed tourist area.

Prof Guy Rutty, a Home Office pathologist, carried out a post mortem examination in Britain. He told the inquest he found nothing to support allegations by Islamic fundamentalist groups that Sharif was captured, restrained or tortured before he died.

 

He said "on the balance of probabilities" he drowned.

 Sharif worshipped at the Jamia mosque in Derby, where members of the outlawed Islamic group al-Muhajiroun regularly tried to recruit young Muslims.

He and Hanif were the first foreign nationals used by the Palestinian group Hamas to carry out terrorist attacks in Israel.

 

 Police believe they were able to move freely between Gaza and Israel because their British passports spared them more stringent checks.Before the bombing they dumped their passports in a skip near the bar so their status as martyrs would be known.The inquest was shown part of their "martyrdom video", in which Hanif ranted: "It is an honour to kill all these people. It is an honour."

Sharif, of Northumberland Street, Derby, sent his family an e-mail warning: "Difficulties lie ahead for you."

 

Recording a narrative verdict Peter Ashworth, the South Derbyshire coroner, said: "It is clear from the video that there was hate for the Jewish race. But that hate and associated acts are in the end pointless.

 "Hate begets hate. It will disappear only if there is a meeting of minds and abandonment of entrenched ideas. Only if there is restraint will peace come."

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