Tuesday, May 8

Another Attempt Foiled--Near Us!

While we were upstairs getting Heidi's room ready for the contractor, Michele called with news we hadn't heard yet: terrorists planning to attack Ft. Dix had been arrested! Now I've had time to find the Philly Burbs article:

Six men charged with plot to attack soldiers on Fort Dix
By: GEOFF MULVIHILL (Tue, May/08/2007)

FORT DIX, N.J. - Six foreign-born Muslims are accused of scheming to attack the Fort Dix Army post and massacre U.S. soldiers , a plot investigators say was foiled when the men took a video of themselves firing guns to a store to have the footage transferred onto a DVD.

Authorities say there is no direct evidence connecting them to any international terror organizations, such as al-Qaida.

But several of the men, including a pizza deliveryman suspected of using his job to scout out the military post, said they were ready to kill and die "in the name of Allah," according to court records.

Their goal was "to kill as many soldiers as possible" in attacks with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns, prosecutors said.

The suspects, who also spoke of attacking U.S. warships that might dock in Philadelphia, were arrested Monday night and were to appear before a federal judge Tuesday afternoon.

"The philosophy that supports and encourages jihad around the world came to live in New Jersey," U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said. "Fortunately law enforcement in New Jersey was here to stop them. The threat that was being brought against Fort Dix has been taken care of."

One suspect reportedly spoke of using rocket-propelled grenades to kill at least 100 soldiers at a time, according to court documents.

"If you want to do anything here, there is Fort Dix and I don't want to exaggerate, and I assure you that you can hit an American base very easily," suspect Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer said in a conversation last August that was secretly recorded by a government informant, according to the criminal complaint against him.

"It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away," a suspect identified as Serdar Tatar said in a conversation recorded by the same informant. "Or I die, it doesn't matter. I'm doing it in the name of Allah."

Still another suspect, Eljvir Duka was recorded by a second informant as saying, "In the end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone is trying attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad."

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Tuesday there is "no direct evidence" that the men have ties to international terrorism.

"They are not charged with being members of an international terrorism organization," Snow said. "At least at this point, there is no evidence that they received direction from international terror organizations."

Asked if those arrested had any links to al-Qaida, Snow referred questions to the FBI and the U.S. attorney, but said those officials "seem to indicate that there is no direct evidence of a foreign terrorist tie."

In court documents, prosecutors said the suspects came to the attention of authorities in January 2006 when a Mount Laurel shopkeeper alerted the FBI about a "disturbing" video he had been asked to copy onto a DVD.

The video showed 10 young men in their early 20s "shooting assault weapons at a firing range ... while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic 'Allah Akbar' (God is great)," the complaint said.

Six of the 10 were identified as those arrested in the plot.

Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said the men viewed Islamic training and weapons videos on the Internet.

"What concerns us is, obviously, they began conducting surveillance and weapons training in the woods and were discussing killing large numbers of soldiers," Boyd said.

The six were scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Camden later Tuesday to face charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. servicemen, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey. An afternoon news conference was also scheduled with federal authorities.

Officials said four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one in Jordan and one in Turkey. All had lived in the United States for years. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in this country permanently, and the sixth is a U.S. citizen.

Besides Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Serdar Tatar and Eljvir Duka, the other three men were identified in court papers as Dritan Duka, Shain Duka, and Agron Abdullahu. Checks with Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka and Shain Duka are illegally living in the United States, according to FBI complaints unsealed with their arrests.

Five of the men lived in Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb located about 20 miles from Fort Dix.

"They were planning an attack on Fort Dix in which they would kill as many soldiers as possible," Drewniak said.

The men also allegedly conducted surveillance at other area military institutions, including Fort Monmouth, a U.S. Army installation, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and a Philadelphia Coast Guard station.

Christie said one of the suspects worked at Super Mario's Pizza in nearby Cookstown and delivered pizzas to the base, using that opportunity to scout out the possible attack.

"Clearly, one of the guys had an intimate knowledge of the base from having been there delivering pizzas," Christie said.

By March 2006, the group had been infiltrated by an informant who developed a relationship with Shnewer, according to court documents. The informant secretly recorded meetings in August 2006 in which Shnewer said that he and the other suspects were part of a group planning to attack a U.S. military base, the complaints said.

Shnewer named Fort Dix, and a nearby Navy base, explaining that "they could utilize six or seven jihadists to attack and kill at least one hundred soldiers by using rocket-propelled grenades" or other weapons, the complaint said. The Navy base was not named in the complaint.

The men were arrested Monday trying to buy automatic weapons from an FBI informant.

Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists. It also housed refugees from Kosovo in 1999.

Meanwhile, the description of the suspects as "Islamic militants" caused renewed worry among New Jersey's Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded up and detained by authorities in the months following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but none were connected to that plot.

"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the 2001 attacks. "But when the government says 'Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous.

"Don't equate actions with religion," he said.


Associated Press Writers Matt Apuzzo and Ben Feller in Washington, Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, Tom Hester Jr. in Trenton and Jeffrey Gold in Newark contributed to this story.

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