Two Charged With Murder of U.S. Citizen in Israel

WASHINGTON (CN) – Two Palestinian men have been charged in the stabbing death of a U.S. woman who was hiking near Jerusalem in 2010.

Ayad Fatafta and Kifah Ghanimat, both of whom authorities believe to be 39, were convicted in Israel of murdering 44-year-old Kristine Luken  as well as of repeatedly stabbing a tour guide she was hiking with, according to the criminal complaint the Justice Department filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Luken and the guide were hiking around ruins near Jerusalem on Dec. 18, 2010, when they came across two men crouching in a thicket. One of the men asked for water, according to the complaint, but the tour guide “sensed that the men posed a potential danger” and pulled out a small knife from her backpack.

The men, who authorities say were both holding large serrated knifes, then allegedly attacked Luken and the tour guide, eventually forcing them into a forest, tying them up and gagging them with scraps of Luken’s fleece jacket, according to the criminal complaint.

The two then allegedly stabbed each woman “numerous times,” walked away for a short time and then returned to stab them again.¬† The tour guide stumbled to a nearby road, but Liken died at the scene from a dozen stab wounds to the chest, according to the criminal complaint.

Israeli investigators found Fatafta’s DNA on the handle of a knife found near the murder scene, as well as on Luken’s body and some personal items. Though he initially denied involvement in the murder, Fatafta confessed two days after being arrested.

Fatafta told authorities he and Ghanimat initially attacked the women to steal their bags and only stabbed them after realizing the women had seen their faces and would be able to identify them to the military, according to the criminal complaint.

Ghanimat’s story was different, telling authorities he and Fatafta bought knifes in Israel a few days before the attack and that Fatafta had told him they “were going to kill every Jewish person that they met.” Luken was wearing a Star of David necklace at the time of her murder, according to the complaint.

Ghanimat denied his involvement in the murder at a court hearing in January 2012, but still received two lifetime sentences plus 60 years after being convicted for the crime, according to the complaint.

Fatafta received one lifetime sentence plus 20 years, according to the complaint.

If convicted in a U.S. court, both men could face a lifetime sentence or even the death penalty. Arrest warrants were issued for both Fatafta and Ghanimat on Thursday, the Justice Department announced.

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