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US foils homegrown terror plot, arrests four

US foils homegrown terror plot, arrests four

Author: Agencies
Publication: The Times of India
Date: May 22, 2009

Introduction: Angry At Events In Af-Pak, Suspects Plotted To Shoot Down Military Jets

Four men were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to bomb a synagogue in New York and to destroy military aircraft with Stinger missiles.

The suspects were arrested on Wednesday night, shortly after planting a 17-kilogram mock explosive device in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple and two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Jewish Center, a few blocks away, authorities said.

Police blocked their escape with an 18-wheel truck, smashing their tinted SUV windows while apprehending the unarmed suspects. At a news conference outside the Bronx temple, police commissioner Raymond Kelly quoted one of the men as saying, "If Jews were killed in this attack…that would be all right."

James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, New York, were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the US and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the US attorney's office said.

"They stated that they wanted to commit jihad," Kelly said. "They were disturbed about what happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed."

An official said that three of the men are converts to Islam. Three of the defendants are US citizens and one is of Haitian descent, officials said. Payen occasionally attended a Newburgh mosque. His statements on Islam often had to be corrected, according to assistant imam Hamin Rashada, who met Payen through a program that helps prisoners re-enter society.

Acting US attorney Lev L Dassin said the defendants planned to detonate a car with plastic explosives to destroy the temple and Jewish center. They also planned to shoot Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles at planes at the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, about 112 km north of New York City.

The defendants, in their efforts to acquire weapons, dealt with an informant acting under law enforcement supervision, authorities said.

The FBI and other agencies monitored the men and provided an inactive missile and inert C-4 to an informant for the defendants.

David Paterson, the Governor of New York, said that three of the men were US citizens and one was of Haitian descent. "This case clearly illustrates that the threat of terrorism in New York is persistent…[and] affects all of our communities, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity," Mr Paterson said.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Kelly met privately with congregants on Thursday inside the Riverdale Temple. "The shock and being floored was followed by relief," David Winter, executive director of the Riverdale Jewish Center, said afterward.

Bloomberg warned against stereotypes, emphasizing that the temple is open to people of all faiths, including a Muslim girl who sometimes prays there. Kelly said the temple may have been chosen because of "convenience"-it is near a highway. He said the suspects had scouted the location twice before.

Kelly said the uniformed officers who flooded the neighbourhood were there to improve residents' "comfort
level," even though "No one was at risk. This was a very tightly controlled operation."

"This latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism," Bloomberg said in a statement.


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