Yesterday, six men were arrested for plotting to attack Fort Dix in NJ and other targets in the area. The men, Muslims from (the former) Yugoslavia, Turkey and Jordan, were apprehended after the FBI conducted 14 months of surveillance and infiltrated their group.
The arrests came after two of the men tried to buy, per the Post, "AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and grenade launchers" in their attempt to kill "as many American soldiers as possible." The FBI's involvement was prompted by a Kinko's clerk; The Daily News reports the clerk contacted the FBI in 2006 when he was asked to "convert from video to DVD a recording of men shooting rifles at a remote firing range shouting, 'Allah akbar!'" FBI Agent J.P. Weis said, "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."
The men, Eljivir Duka, Shain Duka, Dritan Duka, Agron Abdullahu, Shain Tatar and Mohamad Ibrahim Schnewer, lived in southern NJ and Philadelphia and were described as homegrown terrorists "inspired by Al Qaeda" by authorities, who emphasized that the men worked independently. The NY Times reports "the criminal complaint that details the plot describes an effort that was alternately ambitious and clumsy, with the men at turns declaring themselves eager to sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah and worrying about getting arrested or deported for buying weapons or possessing a map of a military base."
The men, ages 22 to 28, held jobs ranging from roofer to cabdriver to pizza deliveryman, and had no clear motivation other than their stated desire to kill United States soldiers in the name of Islam. They considered a variety of targets, including the annual Army-Navy football game and warships docked in the Port of Philadelphia, but ultimately dismissed Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as having too much security and picked Fort Dix largely because one of their fathers owned a restaurant nearby that delivered to the base.
Apparently pizza guys to Fort Dix don't need to be fingerprinted and undergo background checks when they deliver.
Neighbors of the men were shocked. In Cherry Hill, NJ, Michael Levine told the Star-Ledger, "They were working people. They went to work every day and came home and played soccer on the lawn." Another who attended high school with two of the men said, "We did teenage stuff. Drinking. Girls. Stuff like that." The Post also drives home fear with an "Evil Hid in Plain Sight" article. The NY Times notes that the suspects' preparations were full of "chilling yet undeniably strange" details and the Star-Ledger has a timeline.
The six men will have a detention hearing on Friday.
Photograph of Fort Dix by Mel Evans/AP