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4 Palestinians Arrested for Murder of US Tourist

Palestinians suspected of killing Kristine Luken, an American tourist in December 2010, are escorted by Israeli security officers at the district court in Jerusalem, 26 Jan 2011

Israel says it has busted a Palestinian cell responsible for a string of attacks, including the high-profile murder of a Western tourist.

Israeli police say they have arrested four Palestinians who confessed to killing American tourist Kristine Luken last month. Luken and an Israeli friend were brutally stabbed while hiking in a forest near Jerusalem. The friend was seriously wounded but survived.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld says it was a terrorist attack.

"We know it was planned on a nationalistic level," Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said police quickly tracked down the killers.

"The members of the cell were caught based on DNA from the investigation crime scene,” Rosenfeld added. “And within 48 hours of the unfortunate murder of the American woman, we already made four arrests and all of the suspects admitted to carrying out the murder."

The four were part of a 13-member Palestinian cell allegedly responsible for a wave of murders, rapes and robberies as well as shooting attacks against the Israeli army.

Jerusalem Police Commander Shimon Nahum said it started out as a gang of criminals.

Nahum told a news conference that a year ago, the gang changed direction and became a "nationalist group par excellence." He said the turning point was Israel's alleged killing of a senior operative of the Palestinian militant group Hamas in Dubai last January. Nahum said after that, the group wanted revenge.

Kristine Luken, the 44-year-old American tourist, was an Evangelical Christian with a church active in Israel.

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