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Four men were arrested in New York on Wednesday night after plotting to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military airplanes flying out of the New York Air National Guard base. The suspects were caught in a Federal Bureau of Investigation sting and were reportedly motivated by anger over the war in Afghanistan.
Last year, the four men began communicating with an FBI informant who sold them fake explosives and inactive missiles. They are being charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in the US, and conspiracy to acquire and use antiaircraft missiles.
US officials say that although the attack was thwarted, it serves as a reminder that the possibility of another terror attack in the US is still very real, reports the Guardian. "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," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Many are drawing parallels between this recent attempt and several individuals' plans to attack Fort Dix in 2007. CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports that, as in the 2007 attempt, "the suspects had serious intent, strong grievances against the United States and a desire to be jihadists."
The group's leader, James Cromitie, claims that his parents live in Afghanistan and told the FBI informant that he was angry about the US military killing Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan, reports the Times of London.
He said that if he died a martyr, he would go to paradise and that he was interested in doing "something to America". In July last year, he told the informant that he wanted to join Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistan-based group designated by Washington as a terrorist organisation, to "do jihad", according to the statement.
The Telegraph reports that Mr. Cromitie was probably motivated by deep-rooted anti-Semitism. In the official criminal complaint, the British paper reports that he used several profane words to describe his hatred of Jews
The group, which apparently showed sympathy toward Al Qaeda, said that the Sept. 11 attacks had already destroyed "the best target," the World Trade Center, so they decided to target the country's Jewish population. "They were filled with rage and wanted to take it out on what they considered the source of all problems in America – the Jews," one law-enforcement official told the New York Daily News.
Although the group had relatively advanced plans for their attacks, The New York Times City Room blog reports that they had little, if any, prior history with organized violence. Police describe the men as "petty criminals" who were working without any affiliation to larger terrorist organizations.
Mr. Cromitie, 53, had lived in Brooklyn and had a record of "as many as 27 arrests" for minor crimes "both upstate and in New York City," Mr. Kelly said. He, David Williams and Onta Williams are native-born United States citizens, while Mr. Payen is a native of Haiti. "We believe they knew each other from prison contacts, for the most part," Mr. Kelly said.
Mr. Cromitie was the oldest member of the group and its leader, while the others were "significantly younger," in their late 20s or early 30s, Mr. Kelly said.
The suspects apparently kept a low profile, not eliciting any suspicion from their neighbors, reports the New England Cable News Network. "Lives right over here with us. Regular dude," one of the suspects' neighbors told NECN.