Undercover operation 'foiled Bronx bomb plot'

Four men arrested on charges of planning to blow up two synagogues and shoot down aircraft

The authorities said yesterday they had foiled a plan to wage jihad, or "holy war", against the United States by detonating bombs outside a pair of synagogues in New York and using a stinger missile to shoot down National Guard aircraft at a base in Newburgh about 60 miles north of the city.

Capping a surveillance operation that began a year ago, agents arrested four men late on Wednesday night as they planted what they thought were homemade bombs outside the two synagogues in the Bronx neighbourhood of New York City. The bombs had in fact been made by undercover FBI officers and were harmless.

There was no doubting what the men were hoping to achieve, one police source suggested – to detonate "a fireball that would make the country gasp" in the city that had suffered so much destruction at the hands of terrorists in September 2001.

Four men were allegedly involved in the Bronx plot. Three were due in court later yesterday to face conspiracy charges while a fourth was being treated for an undisclosed illness and would be brought before a judge later. If convicted, all four men, three Americans and one Haitian, could face life in prison, officials said. They added that three of the men were converts to Islam.

Speaking to reporters at the Riverdale Jewish Centre, one of the targets of the alleged plot, the New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said yesterday that the four men were small-time criminals who had become acquainted with each other in the first place though prison contacts. They were identified as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen. Mr Cromitie was the oldest member of the group.

"They stated that they wanted to commit jihad," Mr Kelly said. "They were disturbed about what was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed. They were making statements that Jews were killed in this attack and that would be all right – that sort of thing."

All four men were snatched on Wednesday evening in the Riverdale area of the Bronx just as one of the band had placed the fake bombs outside the targets. Mr Kelly said that a large articulated policy lorry was used to block the road as agents swooped in to arrest and handcuff the men. A fifth man who was behind the wheel of the getaway car was in fact an undercover FBI informer, he revealed.

The state assemblyman from Riverdale, Jeffrey Dinowitz, spoke of the shock felt across the neighbourhood yesterday. "I think most people will agree that we're very angry, but very sad that this kind of plot would take place in our community," he said. "There are people out there motivated by religious hatred, hatred against Jews frankly, but the good news is that the NYPD and FBI were on top of this from the very beginning."

Mixed emotions were expressed by the director of the Jewish Centre, David Winter. Saying he was both "shocked and relieved", he added: "Instead of a terrible story, it's a story of success." The two targeted Jewish temples were just a few blocks apart and the mock bombs were placed in car boots at each location.

Police officials said that the accused men thought that they were planting 37lb devices. However, in each case they were packed with inert C-4 plastic explosives prepared by the FBI. Each of them had been "totally disabled" and "there was no danger to anyone," Mr Kelly said.

The undercover operation to track the activities of the men started in June last year in Newburgh, on the Hudson river, where the accused men lived. The undercover FBI agent convinced the accused men that he was connected to a known terrorist group in Pakistan known as Jaish-e-Mohammed.

By October, the undercover FBI agent began inviting the men to a house in Newburgh to discuss moving their plot forward. The house was equipped with video cameras. Material recorded there will now form the basis of the prosecution.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea