What happened at Riverdale Temple?
Riverdale Jewish Center and Temple in the Bronx New York was the target of a recent terror plot which was successfully thwarted by law enforcement authorities on Wednesday, May 20.
Four men were arrested after planting what they thought were explosives near two synagogues. The men were also allegedly plotting to shoot down a US military plane, and were bent on carrying out a holy war or jihad against America, authorities said Thursday.
The suspects were arrested late Wednesday night, shortly after planting a 37-pound mock explosive device in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple, as well as two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, another synagogue a few blocks away.
According to reports, local police and federal authorities worked together to take down the suspected terrorists. Police blocked the criminal’s escape by parking an 18-wheel truck in front of the parking lot exits, then smashing the windows of their SUV and eventually apprehending the unarmed suspects. At a news conference held outside the Riverdale Temple , Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly suggested the attack was in fact anti Semitic in nature, quoting one of the suspects as saying, “If Jews were killed in this attack … that would be all right.”
The suspects are James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, New York. They were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti aircraft missiles. These charges were handed down from the office of the U.S. attorney.
The suspects were further quoted by police officials as stating that they wanted to commit jihad. The suspects were apparently attacking Jews in retaliation for attacks made on Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Further questioning of police officials revealed that the suspects knew one another from time spent together in prison.
The suspects are due in federal court on Thursday in the suburban city of White Plains, New York.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Lev L. Dassin, the defendants planned to detonate a car with plastic explosives to destroy the synagogues and cause massive casualties, even though few people were inside the buildings. Allegedly, the suspects also planned to shoot Stinger surface to air guided missiles at military planes leaving the Air National Guard base in Newburgh, New York, which is about 70 miles north of New York City.
FBI agents posing as weapons suppliers monitored the men planning the attack, and were able to provided the suspects with an inactive Stinger missile and a large quantity of inert C-4 through an informant. An official with the FBI told The Associated Press that three of the men are ‘converts to Islam”. The FBI official was forced to speak on condition of anonymity because no one with the FBI is authorized to discuss details of the investigation or the suspects. Three of the alleged terrorists are U.S. citizens and one is of Haitian descent.
Suspect Laguerre Payen was an occasional attendee to a Newburgh, New York mosque. According to assistant Imam Hamim Rashada, Payen’s beliefs about Islam often had to be corrected, suggesting that his understand of Islam was quite flawed. The Assistant Imam met Payen through a rehabilitation program that helps prisoners to re enter society after incarceration.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg met privately with the temple’s congregants on Thursday inside the Riverdale Temple to allay their fears and reassure them that the city of New York and the American people would do all they could to protect them from further assaults.
Bloomberg warned against retaliating against Muslims, emphasizing that the temple itself is open to people of all faiths, including a young Muslim girl who sometimes prays with the temple congregation. Officials suggest that the temple may have been chosen out of “convenience” — the temple is near a highway and pretty close to the suspect’s hometown. Officials say the suspects had scouted the location twice in the past.
Uniformed police officers and FBI agents continue to flooded the neighborhood surrounding the temple, and are there to improve residents’ comfort level according to police spokespersons. The police suggest that there is no further risk.
Officials told The Associated Press the arrests came after a year long undercover operation between te FBI and local police that started in the suspect’s hometown of Newburgh.
Mayor Bloomberg released a statement Thursday saying, in part: “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.” The defendants, in their efforts to acquire weapons, met with an FBI informant who was acting under full law enforcement supervision. This case appears to be a total success for the American anti terrorist forces.
The defendants were jailed Wednesday night. On their way into jail, they were met by reporters from various news agencies who attempted to yell questions at three of the four men as they were taken in handcuffs into the Metropolitan Correctional Center. The suspects didn’t respond to any questions.
In June 2008, the FBI informant met suspect Cromitie in Newburgh and Cromitie complained that his parents had lived in Afghanistan and he was upset about the war there, and that many Muslims were being persecuted and killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. military forces. Cromitie also expressed an interest in doing “something to America,” according to unnamed FBI officials. In October 2008, the informant started a series of meetings with the defendants at a Newburgh, New York house equipped with bugs — concealed video and audio equipment meant for surveillance. Beginning in April 2009, the four terror suspects selected the synagogue and the community center they intended to ‘hit”. They also conducted surveillance of military planes exiting the Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.
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