May 10th, 2007 03:42 EST
FBI Undercover Probe Busts Terror Plot
A 17-month FBI undercover investigation has led to charges against six men who allegedly tried to amass a small arsenal for a planned attack on soldiers at the U.S. Army base at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
The six men "including three residing in the U.S. illegally "were arrested Monday night by FBI agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, and state and local authorities as they prepared to buy a cache of assault weapons from a man working with the FBI. Five of the men were charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Camden with conspiring to kill U.S. servicemen. A sixth faces illegal firearms charges.
According to a criminal complaint filed May 7 by a special agent in our Philadelphia office, the defendants traveled several times to the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania for firearms training; collected an arsenal of handguns, shotguns, and semi-automatic assault weapons; and conducted surveillance on Fort Dix and other area military bases.
"Today we dodged a bullet," Jody Weis, Special Agent in Charge of our Philadelphia office, said in a press conference Tuesday. "We may have dodged a lot of bullets."
The men are identified in the complaint as Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka, Shain Duka, Mohamad Shnewer, Serdar Tatar, and Agron Abdullahu.
According to the complaint, FBI agents were tipped to the plot in January 2006 when a New Jersey retail clerk reported that a videotape a customer wanted transferred to DVD contained "disturbing" content "young men shooting assault weapons in a militia-like style while calling for jihad. Our Philadelphia office and our multi-agency South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force quickly opened an investigation.
In March 2006, a cooperating witness infiltrated the group and over the next year recorded the group`s alleged plans in vivid detail. Last August, the cooperating witness recorded one of the group`s members explaining to the others that they could kill at least 100 soldiers by using rocket-propelled grenades, mortars, and other weapons.
"Don`t worry about money," one of the defendants, Mohamad Shnewer, was recorded saying. "I have money too as I have been saving money for this plan for some time." About a week later, he described Fort Dix as a potential target, "My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers ". You hit four, five, or six Humvees and light the whole place [up] and retreat completely without any losses."
During the months leading up to Monday`s arrest, the alleged plotters are recorded several times weighing the merits of additional weapons purchases. Our cooperating witness claimed to have access to arms and provided the alleged plotters a list of weapons for sale. Meanwhile, he funneled information to the FBI and JTTF about the alleged plotters` plans as they developed.
In early April, one of the alleged plotters, Ditran Duka, appeared to be ready to purchase a dangerous cache of weapons, including Russian-made Kalashnikov semi-automatic rifles, or AKs. "I want all of the AKs, all the M-16s "and I need all the handguns, one of each "everything he had on the list," Duka is recorded saying.
Assistance in making the arrests was provided by the New Jersey State Police, Cherry Hill Police Department, Cherry Hill Fire Department, Camden County Sheriff`s Department, Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, Mt. Laurel Police Department, and Burlington County Prosecutor`s Office.
Weis said the case reflects a "brand new form of terrorism" that authorities are combating through joint efforts at the federal, state, and local levels. "Our greatest weapon against terrorism is unity."