Four arrested in NYC terror plot against synagogue
BY MATTHEW CHAYES
May 21, 2009
Four men have been arrested and charged in a plot to detonate explosives near at least one synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and to shoot down military aircraft, authorities said Wednesday night.
The plotters planned to use C-4 plastic explosives against the house of worship and a nearby community center, and surface-to-air missiles against the aircraft at the Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in upstate Newburgh, authorities said. One source said the suspects had obtained about 100 pounds of explosives.
In planning the attack, the suspected terrorists bought cell phones, phoned handgun suppliers, scoped out launch locations and took surveillance photography, authorities said.
Photos of the suspects
The men - listed in a complaint charging them with conspiracy as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh - had been planning the attacks since at least last June, according to a criminal complaint filed Tuesday at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Three of the suspects are U.S. citizens and one is Haitian, Gov. David A. Paterson said last night, adding that the plot was considered "a serious threat."
The charges are conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, according to the complaint.
Agents were watching closely during much of the plotting, monitoring it with video and audio wires, authorities said.
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said the men were arrested just as they planned to set off the explosives. Speaking Wednesday night, King, who had been briefed about the arrests by federal authorities, said the case "demonstrates the real threat from homegrown terrorists."
According to the complaint, the plot began last June, when Cromitie told an FBI informant at Masjid al-Ikhlas, a mosque in Newburgh, that he was upset "that many Muslim people were being killed" by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. He said he wanted to go to "paradise" and do "something to America."
Cromitie asked the informant - who had pleaded guilty in 2002 to fraud - about explosives and surface-to-air missiles. The informant helped obtain a Stinger missile, which the FBI had provided but wasn't operable, the government said. They also provided the C-4.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to greet worshipers today at 6:45 a.m. at the Riverdale Jewish Center - one of the terrorists' targets. Bloomberg said last night: "While the bombs these terrorists attempted to plant tonight were - unbeknownst to them - fake, 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."
Staff writer Rocco Parascandola contributed to this story.
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