BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Persian Pashto Turkish French
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Middle East  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
LANGUAGES
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 4 December, 2002, 15:29 GMT
Al-Qaeda 'targeted Israeli footballers'
A football in the back of the net
The match went ahead as scheduled
Al-Qaeda planned to attack the Israeli national football team during an away match in Malta, the Israeli media have reported.

The coach of the national team, Avraham Grant, told Army Radio that he had been informed before the 12 October match that a Tunisian man with suspected links to al-Qaeda had been arrested the day before.


We did not realise they planned an attack

Avraham Grant,
national coach
The man, Hamadi Bawahia, lived in Italy and was detained along with four other men by Italian anti-terrorist forces, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported.

The newspaper said Italian police had intercepted a call between alleged members of a terrorist cell in which one said: "All is ready for the match, the ground is ready, we shall win."

The Italians had been tipped off by Israeli security forces, the paper said.

It added that Italian officials were investigating the possibility that the alleged al-Qaeda members were planning an attack on the football match.

But Italian police sources have denied knowing anything about the alleged plot, the Reuters news agency reported.

Intelligence advice

Mr Grant said that although he was aware of the arrest, he did not know an attack had allegedly been planned.


They will say that every country that agrees to play Israel is endangered by attacks from al-Qaeda

Gavri Levy,
Israel Football Association

"We didn't understand that there was a specific warning. We did not realise they planned an attack," he told Army Radio.

Israel won the match 2-0.

The October incident was not the first time Israeli security forces expressed concern about Malta.

The Shin Bet domestic intelligence service advised a youth swim team not to travel to the island several months ago. The team did not go.

Competition concerns

Gavri Levy, the chairman of Israel's Football Association, said he was afraid the report of the alleged plan would make other teams even more reluctant to play Israel.

"With these reports they will say that every country that [agrees to play Israel] is endangered by attacks from al-Qaeda, and that will be bad for us," he told Army Radio.

Mr Levy is already in meetings with European football's governing body Uefa about finding a location for Israel's "home" matches.

Uefa has decided that the team cannot play its home matches in Israel for security reasons.

Israeli sports teams normally travel abroad under heavy security.

See also:

03 Dec 02 | Africa
03 Dec 02 | Media reports
04 Sep 02 | Scotland
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes