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Siblings charged in January killing of Islamic Movement leader in Jaffa

Orhan Turk and his sister Sabria Koab allegedly ambushed Muhammad Abu Nijm and his nephew Omar Kurdi, assuming they were behind an attack on their family a night earlier

Muhammad Abu Nijm (courtesy)
Muhammad Abu Nijm (courtesy)

Prosecutors on Thursday filed an indictment against two siblings for the deadly shooting of an official in the Islamic Movement in the central city of Jaffa in January.

Orhan Turk, 22, and his sister Sabria Koab, 28 were charged with the murder of Mohammad Abu Nijm, a well-known activist in the political movement, and the attempted murder of his nephew Omar Kurdi.

The two suspects lived in the same neighborhood as the victims.

On the night of January 23, two assailants opened fire and threw a grenade toward the home of a friend of the defendants. A short while later, a number of attackers opened fire toward the home of the defendants’ parents, threw a stun grenade, and fled, the indictment read.

Koab and her family left following the attack, and a short while later two more suspects arrived and threw more stun grenades and a Molotov cocktail at their home.

The suspects assumed that the Nijm and Khil families (of which Kurdi is a member) were responsible for the coordinated attack, and knew that Kurdi was being hosted at Abu Nijm’s house that night.

According to the indictment, the following day, on January 24, Koab and Turk set out to ambush Kurdi.

Dressed in black, wearing a ski mask, and armed with a 9-mm pistol, Turk fired seven times at Kurdi’s vehicle, near the home of Abu Nijm, the indictment said.

Police investigators inspect the scene of the deadly shooting in Jaffa, January 24, 2021. (Israel Police)

Abu Nijm was sitting in the passenger seat, and he was also struck by the gunfire. He and Kurdi were taken to Wolfson Hospital in Holon for treatment, where Abu Nijm later succumbed to his injuries.

Turk then allegedly fled to his sister’s getaway vehicle, and she drove them away from the scene.

The two were arrested in July along with three other suspects. It was not immediately clear if those suspects had been released or would be charged at a later date.

“[Orhan Turk] and his sister Sabria planned the murder of Kurdi while displaying a daring and determined way of carrying out their plot — taking human life due to their suspicion that Kurdi belongs to a rival gang,” prosecutors wrote.

“Although they noticed that another person was sitting in Kurdi’s vehicle, they did not hesitate and continued to carry out the murder plan,” they added.

Abu Nijm, 39, had no criminal background but was connected to one of the families that was party to a wider conflict in the neighborhood.

He was a well-known activist in the Islamic Movement, a political organization, religious outreach group and social service provider founded in the 1970s. The movement split two decades ago; the more moderate southern branch is represented by the coalition’s Ra’am party, while the more hardline northern branch has been outlawed in Israel.

Arab Israeli cities and towns have seen a dramatic spike in violence over the past several years. Government officials, both Arab and Jewish, have said organized crime is driving the body count.

Arab Israelis blame the police, who they say have failed to crack down on powerful criminal organizations and largely ignore the violence, which includes family feuds, mafia turf wars and violence against women.

Israeli Police Chief Kobi Shabtai on January 8, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sixty-six Arab Israelis have been killed in homicides since the beginning of 2021, according to the Abraham Initiatives nonprofit organization. Another 12 Palestinians were killed in alleged criminal homicides inside Israeli territory.

The year 2020 saw 96 Arab Israelis killed in violence, by far the highest annual toll in recent memory.

Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai on Sunday called an emergency meeting on the violence after four Arab Israelis were killed in apparent homicides over the weekend.

Two days later, the Israel Police unveiled a new undercover unit tasked with tackling rampant crime and violence in Arab Israeli communities.

According to a 2020 Knesset report, some 400,000 illegal weapons are circulating in Israel, the vast majority in Arab communities.

Last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that violence and crime in Arab Israeli communities was a “national calamity,” as he met with senior government and police officials to formulate a national plan to tackle the issue.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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