Tel Aviv bus bomber claims confession was forced

Muhammad Mafarji, who originally bragged to investigators about his desire to kill Israelis, says he was tortured by interrogators

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

The scene of the November 21 bus bombing in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)
The scene of the November 21 bus bombing in Tel Aviv (photo credit: Moshe Milner/GPO/Flash90)

A terrorist accused of planting a bomb on a bus in Tel Aviv during last year’s Operation Pillar of Defense now claims that his confession was extracted under duress.

Muhammad Mafarji,18, confessed to the Shin Bet security service that he placed an explosive device on bus No. 142 on November 21. The bomb detonated near the Israeli military’s headquarters in the center of Tel Aviv, injuring 28 people.

Mafarji’s lawyer claimed that he was tortured prior to his confession, and that his interrogators deprived him of sleep and uttered threats of violence against him, Israel Radio reported Monday.

According to Mafarji’s indictment on multiple counts of attempted murder and aiding an enemy during wartime, he planted the bomb on behalf of Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, in order to help the group in its conflict with Israel.

Mafarji, a West Bank Palestinian naturalized through a family reunification procedure some 15 years ago, has Israeli citizenship and can therefore be tried in Israeli civil courts.

The three other members of his terror cell, all from the West Bank, were arrested in connection with the attack, including mastermind Ahmad Ahmed Moussa.

Mafarji told investigators that he met Moussa at Moussa’s supermarket in Beit Lakia in the Binyamin region. While out shopping Mafarji declared that he wanted to fight alongside Hamas in Gaza, and Moussa told him to come back later so that they could discuss the matter further.

When Mafarji returned, the two allegedly began to plot an attack. Moussa first told Mafarji to leave a bag on a bus as a test run, which he successfully completed.

The night before the actual attack the two discussed siding with Gaza, halting the IDF attacks on the coastal enclave, and avenging the death of Hamas military commander Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in a drone strike that marked the onset of the Israeli campaign to curb rocket fire from Gaza. Moussa also allegedly questioned Mafarji about Israeli officials that he knew and promised to provide him with a gun so that he could kill Israelis.

Moussa prepared a bomb that could be detonated by cellphone and hid it in a bag of clothes. He then took Mafarji to the checkpoint at Harbata, where the teenager crossed from the West Bank into Israel to meet with the manager of the McDonald’s where he worked. As the two drove to work, Mafarji was said to have faked a phone call in which he claimed to learn that his mother was ill and that he needed to go back to her. After alighting from the vehicle with the bomb he took a bus to Tel Aviv.

Once inside the city he boarded a No. 142 bus and armed the bomb. When the bus reached the planned detonation point, Mafarji got off, leaving the device under the third seat. He quickly called Moussa to tell him the bomb was in place, whereupon the latter detonated the device via his cellphone.

After the explosion, Mafarji took a train back to Modi’in and calmly reported for work. He was arrested four and half hours after the attack.

Mafarji also told his interrogators that he intended to kill.

Security camera footage from the Savidor train station in Tel Aviv showed Mafarji after the attack walking calmly onto the train on his way to work at McDonald’s at the mall in Modi’in.

His lawyer claimed in January that Mafarji was an innocent teen who was manipulated.

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