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New Jersey terror plot: another airport arrest is no coincidence

The arrest of Mohammed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte on Sunday in the New Jersey terror plot was the second terror arrest at JFK airport in two months, perhaps by design.

By Ron SchererStaff writer / June 7, 2010

This courtroom sketch shows Mohamed Mahmood Alessa (l.) and Carlos Eduardo Almonte as they appeared at Federal Court hearing Monday in Newark, N.J.

Elizabeth Williams/AP


New York

Call it a not-too-subtle message from the FBI to alleged terrorists: Even if you get to the airport, we will arrest you.

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For the second time since the beginning of May, law-enforcement officials have made a terror-related arrest at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Last weekend, federal authorities put the cuffs on two US citizens, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, just before they could board a flight to Egypt. On Monday morning, both men were arraigned in federal court in Newark, N.J., and charged with conspiring to murder, kidnap, and maim outside the United States.

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It’s no coincidence that the arrest occurred at an airport, say former law-enforcement agents and a former US attorney. That makes the case against the two New Jersey residents even stronger, they say. In addition, it probably gave the Federal Bureau of Investigation the opportunity to listen in on any last-minute phone calls the men made before they boarded their flight.

"They could have arrested them in New Jersey,” says Stan Twardy, a former US Attorney for the District of Connecticut. “But arresting them at the airport shows greater evidence of their intent to go through with their actions.”

The arrest of the two individuals follows the attempted car bombing in Times Square on May 1. The alleged suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was a naturalized American citizen, and he was also arrested at the JFK airport. However, in his case, it was alert US Customs agents who spotted his name on a no-fly list after FBI agents who were tailing him lost track of his whereabouts.

In the latest case, according to the criminal complaint, the defendants allegedly hoped to go to Somalia and join up with the terror group Al Shabaab. Their first stop was going to be Cairo, where they hoped to get more people to join them.