July 16, 2009— -- Watch your back, Sacha Baron Cohen.
A Palestinian group that the U.S. State Department has on its terrorist list reportedly has the comedian in its sights after he featured the organization in his current film "Bruno," in which he plays an openly gay Austrian television host.
"We reserve the right to respond in the way we find suitable against this man (Cohen)," the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades said in a statement released to WorldNetDaily.com, an independent news Web site.
"It might be a threat, it might not be," Aaron Klein, the WorldNet reporter who broke the story, told ABCNews.com. "Every terrorist threat should be taken seriously."
It's not clear what, if anything, Cohen or Universal Pictures, which released the film, is doing in response to Al Aqsa's statement. Both declined to comment when contacted by ABCNews.com.
But it's not the first time Cohen has taken heat for one of his characters. A woman who claims she was hurt during the filming of Bruno is suing him while an Austrian official encouraged a boycott of the film. For his previous film, "Borat," Cohen was sued by numerous people unhappy with the way they were depicted.
Klein said Al Aqsa, a militant group classified by the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization loyal to the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, claims to have disbanded over the last two years but maintains a Web site, continues to take responsibility for terrorist attacks and has released several official statements including threats against Israel.
According to Klein, who is based in Jerusalem and has covered terrorists since 2005 and wrote the book, "Schmoozing with Terrorists," Al Aqsa is furious for being included in a film which deals with homosexuality.
"These are terrorists who are fundamentalist Islamists," he said. "They are offended by Hollywood in general," he said. "They are against feminism, gay rights and abortion."
"Once I asked them what would they do if found out one of their members was a homosexual," Klein added. "They said they would cut off his head. That's what they think of that issue."
'Bruno' Breeds New Set of Lawsuits for Cohen
Ayman Abu Eita, a Christian non-violent activist who was identified as a "terrorist" in the film, is also reportedly furious about being included "Bruno," though he is threatening more measured action. According to a source close to him, he has hired an attorney and is preparing a lawsuit against Cohen.
"He will not accept any apologizing from Mr. Cohen," the source said. "Damages really can't be quantified. It's going to be a huge amount."
In "Bruno," Eita was identified as a "terrorist leader" of the Al Aqsa Brigades, though he was never affiliated with the group, according to the source. The source told ABCNews.com that Eita, a life-long Christian, was never a Muslim or a terrorist. Accused of shooting at Israeli soldiers, Aita spent a year and a half in Israeli jail before he was released and all charges dropped, according to the source.
Since his release, Eita has become Fatah's official political representative in Bethlehem and a board member of the Holy Land Trust, a non-governmental organization that promotes Palestinian rights through nonviolence.
"It's not that easy to find an actual terrorist. In fact your government has been looking for one for about nine years," he joked.
Cohen told Letterman that after a few months, he was put in contact with someone from "a pretty nasty group called Al Aqsa Brigades, who are kind of the number one suicide bombers out there."
He described meeting Eita, whom he referred to as the "terrorist," at a secret location in the West Bank. Eita, he said, came with his bodyguard, and Cohen brought along his own security, a guy who once protected Enrique Iglesias during the singer's "Hero" tour.
"I realized I was pretty sure that my terrorist either did or did not have a gun on him," Cohen told Letterman.
But, according to the source close to Eita, Cohen's account and the film's final cut were far from the truth. The source said Eita agreed to be in the film after Cohen, pretending to be a German actor, told him he was making a documentary to mobilize young people to help the Palestinian cause.
Their meeting took place at Everest, a popular restaurant in a section of the West Bank under Israeli control. "Cohen was in no danger whatsoever," Klein said. "No Palestinian is allowed to bring weapons in. No terrorist is even allowed in Israeli-controlled territory."
And Eita's so-called bodyguard was actually Sami Awad, the American manager of the Holy Land Trust, who also served as translator.
So how did Eita not know he was being set up? According to the source close to him, Eita had no reason to think Cohen would use the interview in a negative way.
His English is also limited, so it's possible he didn't understand everything Cohen was saying. And with Cohen's fake German accent, the source said even Awad had trouble understanding him.