Late Wednesday the FBI announced the arrest of four men in a plot to bomb two synagogues in the Bronx and simultaneously shoot down planes at an Air National Guard base near New York City.
The four would-be terrorists were arrested after planting bombs in cars bombs outside the Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center in a wealthy neighborhood in the Bronx. They were unaware that the source from whom they had acquired what they believed to be C4 explosive was an FBI informant, and that the material he provided them with was harmless.
The four men are all from the city of Newburgh, about 60 miles from New York City. All had criminal records and are believed to have met in prison where they converted to a radical sect of Islam. All are African-Americans and one is of Haitian ancestry. Law enforcement officials identified them as James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen.
The arrests came at the end of a year-long investigation initiated when the FBI learned of their efforts to buy explosives and Stinger missiles for their planned attack on military planes at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh.
James Cromitie was said to have identified the killing of Muslims in Afghanistan as his reason for planning the attacks and that he wanted to carry out a Jihad and “do something to America” in retaliation.
They have been charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and with conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles. Each man faces a potential life term in prison on each charge.
Prosecutor Eric Snyder described them as “extremely violent men and said that they “pose an extreme risk of danger to the community,” as he argued at the arraignment that they should be held without bail. He said, “These people were eager to bring death to Jews.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement in which he said:
“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.”
Like the terrorist plot in Miami in which four men were recently sentenced, this plot was described by law enforcement as “aspirational” because although the conspirators had the intent to do harm they did not actually have the weapons and materials necessary to carry out their plans effectively, in this case because the FBI was controlling their access to explosives and weapons. As one official said, the situation “was fully controlled at all times.”