Authorities Investigate Killing of American as Possible Terror Initiation

Israeli authorities are investigating the weekend stabbing death of an American woman in a forest outside Jerusalem as a possible initiation into a terrorist organization, sources close to the case tell

Kristine Luken, 44, of Sterling, Va., was killed Saturday while hiking with a friend and tour guide in the wooded hills outside Jerusalem.

Luken, who worked for Christ Church Jerusalem -- the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East -- was found dead with multiple stab wounds and her hands bound. Her friend, Kaye Susan Wilson, a naturalized Israeli from the U.K., was stabbed 12 times but managed to escape by pretending she was dead.

Wilson recounted the harrowing tale from her hospital bed Sunday, telling reporters that she and Luken were attacked by two Arab men with what looked like a bread knife.

While Israeli authorities are probing "all angles," sources close to the investigation told that police are "seriously considering" the stabbing "an act of terrorism."

One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the killers may have been "amateurs" and "young initiates" into a terror group.

"This may have been their first kill in order to give them a pass into some kind of terrorist group," the source said.

Luken left her job with the U.S. Department of Education in Washington, D.C., to work for "Church's Ministry among Jewish people," or CMJ, an Anglican church organization in England. Luken then relocated to Jerusalem to work for Christ Church in Jerusalem, which was founded by CMJ.

"She was very vivacious. She loved life," Rev. David Pileggi of CMJ's Christ Church in Jerusalem said in an interview. "We all knew her and loved her and had the greatest respect for her."

On the CMJ American website, Luken quoted inspirational poet Minnie Louise Haskins: "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."

A 2007 study tour in Israel, "Walking with Jesus in his Jewish world," brought Luken to the church, she wrote on the site.

Luken and Wilson decided to go hiking together in Israel during Luken's Christmas holiday, according to Pileggi. Wilson reportedly told police that she escaped to a nearby road after pretending to be dead.

No terror groups have claimed responsibility and no suspects have so far been detained.

The forest is inside Israel, but close to the border with the West Bank and the Palestinian villages of Husan and Wadi Fukin.

Luken's family in the U.S. has requested "total privacy," Pileggi said.

In a statement posted to its British website, the ministry said it was "deeply shocked" by Luken's killing.

"She had a beautiful and gentle spirit as well as a strong and vibrant faith," the statement read. "It is a tragedy that such a lively, caring and faith-filled person should have been struck down in such a way. We are praying for her friends and family at this tragic time. However, CMJ will continue to share the gospel with the Jewish people and to work for forgiveness and reconciliation in Israel."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.