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U.S. teen one of 15 killed in suicide bus bombing in Israel

JERUSALEM (BP)–An American teenager is among the dead following a suicide bus bombing in Haifa, Israel, March 4.

Abigail Litle (initially identified in news reports by the last name of Leitel), 14, was one of nine teenagers killed when a suicide bomber sat quietly in the bus before blowing himself up just after 2 p.m. local time, the Haaretz daily newspaper reported. All total, 15 people were killed and more than 50 injured.

The Litle family moved to Israel from New Hampshire 14 years ago so that the father, Philip, could study at the Haifa Technion, Haaretz reported.

“We are not Jewish,” her mother, Heidi, told Haaretz. Including Abigail, the couple had five children. “My sister was an innocent child,” one of the children, Josiah, 15, told the newspaper. “She loved people and she loved nature. She knew she loved God and that he loved her.”

The girl boarded the bus to make her way from school to a friend’s house, Haaretz reported the mother as saying.

The suicide bomber has been identified as 20-year-old computer student Mahmoud Amadan Salim Kawasme, who was carrying a note with quotations from the Koran, Haaretz reported.

Among the injured were two “very seriously wounded” and five “seriously wounded,” Haaretz said.

No organization has claimed responsibility, although the group Hamas praised the attack. The office of Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat responsible for the attack, the newspaper said.

Police called the bomb “medium-sized.”

Litle was one of two victims aboard the bus who attended Haifa’s Really School and were part of the CTC (Children Teaching Children) program of the Jewish-Arab Center for Peace in Givat Haviva, Israel, according to a March 6 report by ASSIST News Service.

Litle and Yuval Mandalovich, 13, had been involved since last September in the program that “teaches towards pluralism, tolerance and coexistence,” said Mohammad Darawashe, the center’s director of public relations.

Darawashe said facilitators from the center, hours before the explosion, conducted a preparation workshop for the teachers of Litle and Mandalovich and their classmates, ASSIST reported — just a few days before an encounter between the classmates with Arab youth from a neighboring town. The session will be dedicated to the two students’ memory, Darawashe told ASSIST.

“We send our condolences to their families, to their classmates, teachers and the residents of Haifa,” he said. “We send our deep sympathy to all the families of the political violence, Israelis and Palestinians alike, especially those who lost their dear ones in the last 24 hours in Haifa and Gaza,” he said, in reference to Israeli military action in Gaza.

“We also reaffirm our denunciation of any violent act against innocent civilians, and especially when it is directed against children, who have become a primary target in the up scaling conflict in our region.”

The center is the winner of the 2001 UNESCO Prize for Peace Education, ASSIST reported.

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