Store Clerk Helps Feds Bust 6 in Alleged 'Jihad' Plot to
Kill U.S. Soldiers at Fort Dix
Posted: May 8, 2007
Ever since Sept. 11, U.S. authorities have asked the public to
be vigilant, urging, "If you see something, say something."
In January 2006, a store clerk in New Jersey saw something.
A group of men had brought him a video showing them firing
assault weapons and chanting, "God is Great!" in Arabic. They
wanted him to transfer the footage onto a DVD.
So he said something, calling the Mount Laurel Police
Department, who in turn contacted the FBI.
And thus began the downfall of one of the most thoroughly infiltrated
and documented group of terrorism suspects in recent history
— six men from Yugoslavia and the Middle East who were charged
Tuesday with plotting to slaughter scores of American soldiers
at Fort Dix and perhaps other military installations in the
FBI agent J.P. Weis saluted the unidentified Mount Laurel store
clerk as the "unsung hero" of the case.
"That's why we're here today — because of the courage and heroism
of that individual," the FBI agent said.
The suspects' images and words were captured on more than 50
audio and video recordings. Their comings and goings were recorded
by law enforcement agents who monitored the alleged plot for
16 months, hoping more terror ties would become apparent.
The defendants, all men in their 20s, include a pizza deliveryman
suspected of using his job to scout out Fort Dix. Their goal
was "to kill as many American soldiers as possible" in attacks
with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns, prosecutors
"Today we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type
of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have
dodged a lot of bullets," Weis said. "We had a group that was
forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their
target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they
were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able
to stop that."
Authorities said there was no direct evidence connecting the
men to any international terror organizations such as Al Qaeda. But several of
them said they were ready to kill and die "in the name of Allah,"
according to court papers.
The six men — five of whom lived in Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia
suburb about 20 miles from Fort Dix — were arrested Monday night
while trying to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons
from an FBI informant, authorities said.
"This is what law enforcement is supposed to do in the post-9/11
era — stay one step ahead of those who are attempting to cause
harm to innocent American citizens," U.S. Attorney Christopher
In addition to plotting the attack on Fort Dix, the defendants
spoke of attacking a Navy installation in Philadelphia during
the annual Army-Navy football game and conducted surveillance
at other military installations in the region, prosecutors said.
One defendant, Eljvir Duka, was recorded as saying: "In the
end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone
... attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad."
"It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested
or get taken away," another defendant, Serdar Tatar, was alleged
to have said. "Or I die, it doesn't matter. I'm doing it in
the name of Allah."
They appeared in federal court Tuesday in Camden and were ordered
held without bail for a hearing Friday. Five were charged with
conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel; the sixth was charged
with aiding and abetting illegal immigrants in obtaining weapons.
Four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was
born in Jordan and one came from Turkey, authorities said. All
had lived in the United States for years. Three were in the
United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to
stay in this country permanently; and the sixth is a U.S. citizen.
One defendant, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, spoke of using rocket-propelled
grenades and other weapons to kill at least 100 soldiers, according
to court documents.
"My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers," he
was quoted as saying. "You hit four, five or six Humvees and
light the whole place (up) and retreat completely without any
The men trained by playing paintball in the woods in New Jersey
and taking target practice at a firing range in Pennsylvania's
Pocono Mountains, where they had rented a house, authorities
They often watched terror training videos, clips featuring
Usama bin Laden, a tape containing the last will and testament
of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and tapes of armed attacks
on U.S. military personnel, erupting in laughter when one plotter
noted that a Marine's arm was blown off in an ambush, authorities
Asked if those arrested had any links to Al Qaeda, White House
spokesman Tony Snow said it appears "there is no direct evidence
of a foreign terrorist tie."
The FBI's Weis said the U.S. is seeing a "brand-new form of
terrorism," involving smaller, more loosely defined groups that
may not be connected to Al Qaeda but are inspired by its ideology.
"These homegrown terrorists can prove to be as dangerous as
any known group, if not more so. They operate under the radar,"
According to court documents, the video that the store clerk
found disturbing depicted 10 young men in their early 20s "shooting
assault weapons at a firing range ... while calling for jihad
and shouting in Arabic 'Allah Akbar' (God is great)." The 10
included six of those arrested, authorities said.
Within months, the FBI had managed to infiltrate the group
with two informants, according to court documents.
One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father's pizzeria
and made deliveries to Fort Dix, using the opportunity to scout
out the base for an attack, authorities said.
"Clearly, one of the guys had an intimate knowledge of the
base from having been there delivering pizzas," Christie said.
The men also allegedly conducted surveillance at other area
military installations, including Fort Monmouth in New Jersey,
Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, and a Philadelphia Coast Guard
Besides Shnewer, Tatar and Duka, the other three men were identified
in court papers as Dritan Duka, Shain Duka and Agron Abdullahu.
Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists.
It also housed refugees from Kosovo in 1999.
The arrests stirred renewed worry among New Jersey's Muslim
community. Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded
up and detained in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, but
none were connected to that plot.
"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished
to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer
who represented scores of detainees after the 2001 attacks.
"But when the government says `Islamic militants,' it sends
a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous."
"Don't equate actions with religion," he said.
Article at: foxnews.com