No arrests were made, and officials played down the raids later Monday, saying there was no immediate terror threat. But a resident of one of the apartments described a dramatic, middle-of-the-night operation, and local media quoted jittery neighbors.
"He was being watched and concern grew as he met with a group of individuals in Queens over the weekend," said Congressman Pete King (R-NY). "The FBI went to court late last night for an emergency warrant to conduct the raids this morning." A resident in the neighborhood said there was police activity around 2 a.m. Monday.
Officials said the execution of search warrants came after days of surveillance, and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly characterized it as part of an "ongoing investigation."
The New York Times quoted New York Senator Charles Schumer, who was briefed on the operation, describing the raids as "preventative." Schumer denied rumors that there were concerns of an "imminent" attack or that the raid related to President Obama's visit to New York City on Monday.
The Times report included an eyewitness account of 10 to 15 agents startling residents awake by kicking in their door, ordering them to line up facing the wall, and grilling them about an acquaintance.
Naiz Khan, one of the men who was questioned at the building, said the agents were most interested in an acquaintance who had stayed at the apartment on Thursday but was not there when the raids occurred.
Mr. Khan said the acquaintance lived in Flushing at one time, attending the same Afghan mosque in Queens, Masjid Hazrat Abubakr, as the five men who live in the apartment that was raided. The man moved to Colorado about eight months ago, but had returned to New York to resolve a problem with a permit that he had for a coffee cart he had operated in Lower Manhattan.
"I've lived here my whole life and I never saw anything like this before," said Flushing resident Melissa Kahn.
"You think you know what's going on in your neighborhood but you have no idea," said Flushing resident Jonathan Rosario.