Arrests in New York ‘attack plot’
Four men have been arrested over alleged plots to attack targets in New York, US prosecutors say.
They planned to blow up a synagogue and use Stinger missiles to bring down military planes at an airport north of the city, a statement said.
The men were arrested after agreeing to buy missiles and explosives in an undercover operation.
New York has been on alert for a new terror assault since the 9/11 attack claimed by al-Qaeda militants.
Officials summarised the main charge against the four men as a conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States.
They are to appear in court on Thursday in White Plains, and face from 25 years to life imprisonment if found guilty.
They were named as James Cromitie (also known as Abdul Rahman), David Williams (aka Daoud and DL), Onta Williams (aka Hamza) and Laguerre Payen (aka Amin and Almondo). All were reportedly born in the US and Muslims.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement that the alleged plot showed “homeland security threats against New York City [were] sadly all too real”.
‘Car bomb plot’
“The defendants wanted to engage in terrorist attacks,” said Lev Dassin, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York.
“They selected targets and sought the weapons necessary to carry out their plans.”
According to prosecutors, the men planned to detonate a car packed with plastic explosives outside the Riverdale synagogue, in the Bronx district of the city.
They also intended to target military planes at the New York Air National Guard base at Stewart Airport, 60 miles (85 km) north of New York City.
“They would travel,” FBI official Joseph Demarest told reporters.
“They had bags that were set up that they believed to be bombs, carrying about 30 pounds of explosives which they believed to be explosives…
“They would place a satchel or a bag in front of a vehicle in front of the temple down the block and then two more bags into a vehicle parked in front of the synagogue here.”
The arrests were the result of a year-long investigation, officials said.
‘Afghan war anger’
According to prosecutors, Mr Cromitie – whose parents are from Afghanistan – told an FBI informant in June 2008 that he was angry over the US-led war in Afghanistan.
He “expressed an interest in ‘doing something to America”‘.
From October 2008, the informant began meeting him regularly along with the four others at a house in which the FBI had concealed video and audio equipment.
The group allegedly “expressed desire” to attack targets in New York and Mr Cromitie “asked the informant to supply surface-to-air guided missiles and explosives”, prosecutors say.
In April 2009, the group agreed on the synagogue they intended to attack and proceeded to conduct surveillance, including taking photographs of the warplanes at the military base, prosecutors say.
Mr Cromitie allegedly pointed out Jews in the street, saying “if he had a gun, he would shoot each one in the head”, according to the district attorney’s statement.
According to the statement, he told the informant that attacking the Jewish community centre would be a “piece of cake”.
He also said he would be interested in joining Jaish-e-Mohammed – a Pakistan-based group considered a terrorist organisation by Washington – “to do jihad”.
New York Republican representative Peter King told CNN that the day of the arrests was the day the suspects had planned to carry out the synagogue attack.
He also said the four men were all Muslim – one a born Muslim of Afghan descent, the others having converted in prison.