Some Beersheba attack casualties may have been hit by friendly fire
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Some Beersheba attack casualties may have been hit by friendly fire

Police investigation sheds light on chaotic gun battle as security forces sought to end Muhanad Alukabi’s shooting spree

Police and rescue workers at the scene of a shooting and stabbing attack at the central bus station in the southern city of Beersheba, on October 18, 2015. (Meir Even Haim/Flash90)
Police and rescue workers at the scene of a shooting and stabbing attack at the central bus station in the southern city of Beersheba, on October 18, 2015. (Meir Even Haim/Flash90)

Some of the 11 people wounded in Sunday’s terror attack in the Beersheba central bus station may have been hurt by friendly fire from security forces racing to stop the terrorist.

“It’s not impossible that some of the wounded from last night’s terror attack were hit by fire from police, soldiers or security officers,” a senior police source close to the investigation told reporters Monday.

As the investigation into the attack continues, police have been trying to piece together a picture of the chaos sparked by the stabbing and shooting spree of 21-year-old terrorist Muhanad Alukabi — including the apparent lynching of an innocent Eritrean national by a mob that mistook him for a terrorist. Channel 2 reported Monday that two uniformed security personnel were among the suspects in the killing of the Eritrean man, Haftom Zarhum, 29.

“In light of the sheer number of bullets that were fired from opposite directions at the terrorist, and from the terrorist at the security forces, it is entirely possible — and the assessment is that this is, in fact, the case — that some of the wounded were hit by fire from the security forces, or from richochets” generated by the gun battle, the police source said.

He added that he believed the high number of shots directed at the terrorist, who was killed, was justified.

“This can happen in an incident such as this. You have to understand that this was the scene of a terror attack,” he said, “in which an armed terrorist was actively shooting, and increased his rate of fire when security forces arrived on the scene. There was no choice but to neutralize him” as quickly as possible, from whatever angle happened to be available to the security forces, the police source added.

“The fact that police officers, soldiers and security personnel were involved in the incident prevented a far greater disaster,” he said, but added that “the entire issue is still under investigation, and conclusions will only be drawn later.”

Alukabi’s father, Khalil, said Monday that his son was “executed in the field,” and insisted he did not know the facts about his son’s alleged actions.

“Muhanad was executed in the field, and everything being attributed to him in Beersheba is an act about which we don’t actually know anything. My son was executed. Even now, we still don’t know the truth,” he told reporters outside his home in the village near Hura in the Negev.

Khalil Alukabi then appeared to concede that his son may have carried out the attack, which he called “an individual act my son committed on his own. We oppose violence.”

He was speaking after police officers visited his home to seek permission to perform an autopsy on the body. He approved the autopsy after identifying the body, the news site NRG reported.

Police also ordered the family to take down a mourning tent set up for Muhanad. Israeli policy forbids public displays of support and mourning for terrorists.

“We have the deepest respect for this important community,” Southern District police chief Yoram Halevi said of the decision, “but [Alukabi] was a terrorist, and will be treated like any other terrorist.”

The oldest of six children, Muhanad, who worked as a metalworker, was the family’s primary breadwinner. The father is unemployed.

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