Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - The would-be shoe bomber, who allegedly wanted to down an American Airlines plane during a trans-Atlantic flight, visited Israel recently and investigators are looking into the possibility that he made terrorist connections while he was here, a major Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.
The prime minister's office declined to comment on the report.
Richard Reid was nabbed by an alert flight attendant and subdued by several passengers on Saturday, while traveling on from Paris to Miami, as he reportedly tried to detonate an explosive device concealed in the heel of his shoe.
According to the Hebrew daily, Yediot Aharonot, Reid visited Israel for one week in June of this year and aroused the suspicion of Israeli security personnel.
Israeli security sources and the secret service, as well as the American FBI, are currently checking to see what Reid was doing in Israel at the time. They are asking if he came to collect information about an attack and if he met someone connected with a terrorist network while he was here, the popular daily said.
What is known is that Reed arrived here from Europe apparently on a forged passport with a Sri Lankan identity.
When he arrived at Israel's Ben-Gurion international airport, security personnel were suspicious of Reed, but after questioning, they released him. A week later he left Israel for Egypt, via the Rafah land border crossing, and may have then flown on to Afghanistan, the paper said.
Reid is being held in Boston and is believed to be connected to the al Qaeda terrorist network of Osama bin Laden, wanted in connection with the September 11 terror attacks.
Israeli experts believe the al Qaeda network is not very active among Palestinian groups in Israel or the Palestinian Authority territories. Nevertheless, they have said that bin Laden would like to turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a wider Islamic struggle.
Bin Laden Links U.S. Terror To Support of Israel
In at least two of his video taped messages, including one due to air on Thursday, bin Laden blamed U.S. support of Israel for the September 11 terror attacks. Washington is perceived by many Arab and Muslim countries to be biased toward Israel and is thought to be able to make Israel conform.
"I swear to God that America will not live in peace before peace reigns in Palestine," bin Laden said in the earlier video, broadcast in October.
An Israeli official described bin Laden's linkage between the terror attacks in the U.S. and its support for Israel as "nonsense" on Thursday.
"[Bin Laden] trying again and again to call on Arab world and Islamic world to go out [against Israel]," the official said. "He is trying again to create unrest in the Arab world."
A hatred of Israel has been a means to rally Arab and Islamic unity in the past. But since the 1991 Gulf war, when Arab states sided with the West in their war against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, it has not been as effective.
The Israeli official also pointed out that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat was very embarrassed several months ago when bin Laden first made the claim in October.
Although Palestinian demonstrators took to the streets in support of bin Laden at the time of the terror attacks, they were forbidden to do so by the PA, which had offered its condolences to the U.S.
Palestinian officials rejected the linkage that bin Laden tried to make with their plight, saying that the Saudi militant was simply trying to hijack their cause. He had never been particularly interested in them before September 11, they said.