Jihadists arrested in New Jersey

first_imgFORT DIX, N.J. – Six foreign-born Muslims were arrested and accused Tuesday of plotting to attack Fort Dix and slaughter scores of U.S. soldiers – a scheme the FBI says was foiled when the men asked a store clerk to copy a video of them firing assault weapons and screaming about jihad. The defendants, all men in their 20s from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East, include a pizza deliveryman suspected of using his job to scout out the military base. Their goal was to kill as many American soldiers as possible with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns, prosecutors said. “Today we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets,” said FBI agent J.P. Weis. “We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target. They did their reconnaissance. They had maps, and they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that.” Authorities said there was no direct evidence connecting the men to al-Qaida or any other international terror organization. But several of them said they were ready to kill and die in the name of Allah, according to court papers. Investigators said they infiltrated the group more than a year ago and bided their time while two informants secretly recorded the defendants, including four who lived in Cherry Hill, a New Jersey suburb about 20 miles from Fort Dix. “This is what law enforcement is supposed to do in the post-9-11 era: Stay one step ahead of those who are attempting to cause harm to innocent American citizens,” U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said. Weis said the New Jersey storekeeper who noticed the suspicious video was the “unsung hero” of the case. “That’s why we’re here today – because of the courage and heroism of that individual,” said the FBI agent, who withheld the informant’s identity. In addition to plotting the attack on Fort Dix, the defendants spoke of assaulting a Navy installation in Philadelphia during the annual Army-Navy football game and conducted surveillance at other military installations in the region, prosecutors said. One defendant, Eljvir Duka, was recorded as saying: “In the end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone … attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad.” The six were arrested Monday night trying to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons from an FBI informant, authorities said. They appeared in federal court Tuesday in Camden, N.J., and were ordered held without bail for a hearing Friday. Five were charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel. The sixth was charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigrants in obtaining weapons. Four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was born in Jordan, and one came from Turkey, authorities said. All had lived in the United States for years. One is a U.S. citizen. Three were in the United States illegally. Two had green cards allowing them to stay in the country permanently. One defendant, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, spoke of using rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons to kill at least 100 soldiers, according to court documents. “My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers,” he was quoted as saying. “You hit four, five or six Humvees and light the whole place (up) and retreat completely without any losses.” Another defendant, Serdar Tatar, was quoted as saying: “It doesn’t matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested or get taken away – or I die. It doesn’t matter. I’m doing it in the name of Allah.” The men trained by playing paintball in the woods in New Jersey and taking target practice at a firing range in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, authorities said. They often watched terrorist training videos, clips featuring Osama bin Laden, a tape containing the last will and testament of some of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers and tapes of armed attacks on U.S. military personnel. They erupted in laughter when one of them noted that a Marine’s arm was blown off in an ambush, authorities said. Asked if those arrested had any links to al-Qaida, White House spokesman Tony Snow said it appears “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 the shopkeeper in Mount Laurel, N.J., alerted the FBI to a disturbing video he had been asked to copy onto a DVD. The video showed young men “shooting assault weapons at a firing range … while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic `Allah Akbar’ (God is great),” the complaint said. One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father’s pizzeria and made deliveries to Fort Dix, using the opportunity to scout out the base for an attack, authorities said. Besides Shnewer, Tatar and Eljvir Duka, the other three men were identified in court papers as Dritan Duka, Shain Duka and Agron Abdullahu. Soldiers, particularly reservists, are trained at Fort Dix, which also housed refugees from Kosovo in 1999. THE SUSPECTS AGRON ABDULLAHU AGE: 24 BORN: Former Yugoslavia RESIDES: Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, N.J. INFO: Legally residing in U.S., employed at a Shop-Rite supermarket. DRITAN DUKA AGE: 28 BORN: Former Yugoslavia RESIDES: Cherry Hill, N.J. INFO: Illegally residing in U.S., operates businesses known as Colonial Roofing and National Roofing with brothers Eljvin and Shain. ELJVIR DUKA AGE: 23 BORN: Former Yugoslavia RESIDES: Cherry Hill, N.J. INFO: Illegally residing in U.S., operates businesses known as Qadr. Inc., Colonial Roofing and National Roofing. MOHAMAD IBRAHIM SHINEWER AGE: 22 BORN: Jordan RESIDES: Cherry Hill, N.J. INFO: U.S. citizen, employed as taxicab driver in Philadelphia. SERDAR TATAR AGE: 23 BORN: Turkey RESIDES: Philadelphia INFO: Legally residing in U.S., last known employment was at a 7-Eleven in Philadelphia. SHAIN DUKA AGE: 26 BORN: Former Yugoslavia RESIDES: Same address as Eljvir Duka in Cherry Hill, N.J. INFO: Illegally residing in U.S., operates businesses known as Colonial Roofing and National Roofing. – U.S. Department of Justice and Associated Press160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img