Six arrested in plot against US army base in New Jersey

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Fort Dix location in Burlington County, New Jersey
Image: Jim Irwin, 2005.

Federal investigators in the United States have arrested six men on Monday evening on charges of conspiracy to kill US servicemembers. The men are alleged to be members of an Islamic radical terror cell who were planning a heavily armed attack against soldiers at the United States Army facility at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

The US Attorney's Office said that some of the men were living illegally in the US, while others were legal immigrants. It identified the men as Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka, Shain Duka, Serdar Tatar, Mohamad Shnewer and Agron Abdullahu. They were said to be four ethnic Albanians (from the former Yugoslavia), one from Turkey, and the sixth man from Jordan.

Reportedly, the FBI had the men under surveillance for 16 months as they trained with both paintball guns and real weapons in the Poconos Mountains area of Pennsylvania. The men video-taped their training and brought the tapes to a camera store to be copied to DVD. The camera store owner alerted the FBI, which then began its investigation.

The Star-Ledger reports that the men were lured by an FBI informant into a sting operation to meet with an arms dealer where they wanted to purchase five AK-47 automatic machine guns and three M-16 assault rifles at a residence in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It was at this point they were arrested.

U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Christopher J. Christie called the camera store owner who tipped off the FBI to the terror cell "an American hero", according to Richard Degener of The Press of Atlantic City. Christie spoke at the Flanders Hotel on Tuesday to the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The camera store owner saw Muslim men in military garb toting weapons in the woods. He heard them talking about jihad and how Allah was great. He called the FBI and became a hero," Christie said.

One member of the terror cell was able to gain detailed knowledge of the military base from his work as a pizza delivery driver. The plot was to take over guard posts and "kill hundreds of Fort Dix soldiers", Christie said. U.S. Marshal James Plousis joined Christie at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon with 50 area Atlantic City merchants to talk about the value of reporting suspicious activity.

"They are not being charged with being members of an international terror organisation," said White House spokesperson, Tony Snow. "However, their involvement in weapons training, operational surveillance and discussions about killing American military personnel warranted a strong law enforcement response."