4 Muslims charged in plot to kill thousands by blowing up JFK fuel lines in neighborhoods -1 US citizen jailed in Brooklyn ex airport worker
June 2, 2007
Trinidad Holds 2 in Alleged Terror Plot
By TONY FRASER
Associated Press Writer
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) - Two men allegedly involved in a plot to attack New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport were in custody in Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday and the police commissioner said authorities were scouring the Caribbean country for a third suspect still at large.
Trevor Paul, the top police official in the twin-island nation off Venezuela's coast, identified the arrested suspects as Abdul Kadir, 55, a Guyanese Muslim and former member of the South American nation's Parliament, and Kareem Ibrahim, a 56-year-old from Trinidad.
Both were arrested on U.S. warrants and are suspected of involvement in a plan to blow up a fuel line feeding the airport, Paul told a news conference.
Abdel Nur of Guyana was still being sought in Trinidad, U.S. officials said.
U.S. authorities allege Kadir, Ibrahim, Nur and another Muslim man, Russell Defreitas, planned to attack the airport, kill thousands and wreak economic havoc by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through residential neighborhoods. The plot never got beyond the planning stages, officials said.
Defreitas, an American citizen native to Guyana and a former JFK employee, was in custody in Brooklyn.
"The FBI did inform the Trinidad law enforcement authorities of the fact that three men were wanted in the U.S. on warrants in connection with a terrorist plot. We have been working with the FBI for some time, but this last request was made yesterday," Paul said.
Paul said the two suspects would likely be extradited to the U.S. after court hearings in Trinidad. He did not say when their first court appearance in Port-of-Spain would be.
U.S authorities said Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of a Trinidadian radical Muslim group, Jamaat al Muslimeen, which launched an unsuccessful rebellion in 1990 that left 24 dead.
"We understand that Kadir is linked to a major organization in Trinidad," Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo, who is in Port-of-Spain at a regional agriculture conference, told reporters. He would not disclose further details.
Kadir's wife, Isha Kadir, told The Associated Press that her husband, a Shiite Muslim, is innocent. She said her husband flew from Guyana to Trinidad on Thursday on his way to Venezuela, where he planned to pick up a travel visa to attend an Islamic religious conference in Iran. Kadir was arrested at Trinidad's international airport on Friday after he had boarded a flight to Venezuela, Paul said.
"We have no interest in blowing up anything in the U.S," Kadir's wife said. "We have relatives in the U.S."
Paul said he could not disclose whether the suspects were believed to be in Trinidad seeking support from the radical Muslim group Jamaat al Muslimeen.
Phone calls to Yasin Abu Bakr, the radical group's leader, went unanswered Saturday.
Ibrahim was also arrested on Friday in a cane farming town about 20 miles east of Port-of-Spain. Trinidadian authorities did not disclose more about that arrest.
Kadir served in Guyana's parliament until last year when it was disbanded before general elections in the former Dutch and British colony on the north coast of South America. Muslims, most of them Sunnis, make up about 9 percent of the Guyana's 770,000 population.
Kadir studied civil engineering at the University of Guyana and at the Trinidad campus of the University of the West Indies and has also served as mayor in Linden, a small city about 70 miles south of Georgetown, the Guyanese capital.
He also worked for years as a civil engineer in the state-owned bauxite company before leaving to set up his own building contractor business.
Kadir's wife said her husband knew Abdel Nur in Guyana in the 1980s but they were no longer in contact.
"We have not seen him for a long time and I would be surprised if my husband has any links with him still," she said in a phone interview from her home in Guyana.
Kadir was a friend and associate of an Iranian cleric, Muhammad Hassan Abrahemi, who was abducted, shot to death and left in a sand pit east of Georgetown in 2004.
He and his wife have three children, who have all studied religion in Iran, Isha Kadir said.
She said she suspects her husband's arrest is linked to two American Muslims who stayed with the family in Guyana for a week last month. She knew one only as Muhammed and did not know the other's name.
"I am now wondering if those Muslim brothers did not set us up," she said. "I can't say for sure but we have nothing to hide. We are not involved in anything."
She said she planned to travel to Trinidad to try to meet with her husband before he is extradited to the United States.
Paul did not identify Nur by name or disclose further details about the search for him in Trinidad, an oil- and gas-rich country of 1.3 million people.
Associated Press Writer Bert Wilkinson contributed to this report from Georgetown, Guyana.
4 men charged in plot to blow up Kennedy jet fuel tanksBy William K. Rashbaum
Saturday, June 2, 2007
U.S. prosecutors in Brooklyn, New York, charged Saturday that a retired cargo worker at Kennedy International Airport plotted with a former member of the Guyanese Parliament and two other men to blow up terminal buildings, fuel tanks and the network of fuel pipelines that run beneath the airport complex.
Three of the four men, including the former airport worker and the former Parliament member, were arrested Saturday and Friday by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and police detectives, the authorities said. The fourth man was being sought, and officials said additional people may face charges.
The airport worker, Russell Defreitas, 63, through the assistance of the member of Parliament, Abdul Kadir, was in the process of seeking the financial backing and blessing of a Trinidadian terrorist group, Jamaat Al Muslimeen. The group was behind a failed 1990 coup attempt in that country, officials said.
Several law enforcement officials said that there had been no direct threat to the airport, which handles an average of 1,000 flights a day and 45 million passengers a year, and that Defreitas, a United States citizen who was born in Guyana, and his co-conspirators had yet to obtain financing or explosives.
But the officials said Defreitas, who had long worked at the 4,930-acre airport, developing a thorough knowledge of its layout and its vulnerabilities, sought an attack that he said, according to secretly recorded conversations, would result in "the destruction of the whole of Kennedy," an attack that only a few people would survive.
In addition to a huge loss of life — "even the twin towers can't touch it," he said of the plot — the attack would devastate the United States economy and strike a deep symbolic blow against a national icon, President John F. Kennedy.
"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States," he said in one of dozens of conversations secretly recorded during the 18-month investigation. "To hit John F. Kennedy, wow.... They love John F. Kennedy like he's the man ... If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."
The officials said that Kadir, on the other hand, emphasized the goal of causing economic damage, and seemed to seek to minimize the killing of innocent men and women.
But a spokesman for Buckeye Partners, the company that operates the pipeline, said that an explosion at a fuel-tank farm at the airport would not ignite the pipeline.
"It's not like the pipeline is a stick of dynamite and the whole thing would blow up," said Roy Haase, the Buckeye spokesman. "Pipelines don't blow up."
The secretly recorded conversations were described in an indictment unsealed Saturday in Federal District Court in Brooklyn charging Defreitas, Kadir and the two other men, Kareem Ibrahim and Abdel Nur, with conspiring to blow up the airport, charges for which they could face life in prison if convicted.
The charges were announced at a news conference at FBI headquarters in New York by the head of the bureau's New York office, Mark Mershon; the city's police commissioner, Raymond Kelly; Roslynn Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn; and other officials.
Mershon said, "The enforcement action that was taken today was done to prevent a terrorist plot from maturing into a terrorist act."
Defreitas, who lives in Brooklyn, was arrested at a diner on Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn about 10 p.m. Friday. Kadir and Ibrahim were arrested earlier in Trinidad.
Kadir had been detained after boarding a flight on Aeropostal, a Venezuelan airline, which was to go Caracas, an official briefed on the arrest said Saturday. The flight between Port of Spain and Caracas, which usually takes less than an hour, had taken off and was told to return to Trinidad, the official said.
"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," Mauskopf said. "The charges that were filed today give you a window into how these plots come about, how these plots are developed, how these plots have international connections, how this particular one spread from the United States, Brooklyn, New York, through Queens, J.F.K. Airport, abroad into Guyana and Trinidad."
The officials described an investigation that began in January and included an undercover FBI informer, who was introduced to Defreitas early in planning of the attack and who traveled to Guyana and Trinidad with him in an effort to win support for it, officials said.
The informer secretly recorded "numerous" conversations, and one law enforcement official said there was also "all sorts of electronic surveillance" of the suspects.
Kelly said that the pipeline that carried fuel to the airport "is indeed the feeding tube that nourishes international commerce" at Kennedy and La Guardia Airports. He said the police had increased their surveillance of the pipeline and storage facilities and conducted a survey to gauge their vulnerability.
The conspirators dispatched Defreitas from Guyana to conduct photo and video surveillance of the airport four times in January, officials said. Using his knowledge of the airport, he picked out targets, identified escape routes and evaluated security.
The men also used the Internet to find satellite photographs of the terminal, the officials said.
One law enforcement official played down Defreitas's skills as a terrorist, calling him "a sad sack" and "not a Grade A terrorist."
But he noted that his efforts to solicit the backing and blessing of Jamaat Al Muslimeen, which conducted a deadly attack on Trinidad's Parliament during a failed coup attempt in 1990, could have had devastating consequences.
"They didn't have the money and they didn't have the bombs, but if we let it go it could have gotten there — they could have gotten the JAM fully involved, and we wouldn't know where it could have gone," the official said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a statement Saturday saying: "The fact that plotters conspired to plan an attack on John F. Kennedy Airport is another reminder that in today's world we face constant threats from people who want to take away our freedoms and destroy our way of life. Working together, NYPD and other local and federal law enforcement agencies have been on top of this unfolding plot for months, and they deserve our thanks and praise. This plot was only in its planning stages and at no point was anyone in imminent danger. New Yorkers should be comforted that the layers of safety provided by counterterrorism officials stopped these individuals before they could do any harm to our way of life."
Defreitas was arraigned Saturday in a brief proceeding before United States Magistrate Judge Kiyo Matsumoto, who ordered him detained pending a bail hearing.
Before the arraignment, a somber Defreitas walked slowly into the courtroom, his face drawn, wearing a greenish-brown knee-length tunic and loose-fitting pants. The two prosecutors handing the case, Assistant United States Attorneys Jeffrey Knox and Marshall Miller, argued that he should be beheld without bail.
"He is the self-proclaimed brainchild of an elaborate plot to blow up JFK airport," Knox told the judge. "His stated goal was to kill as many people as possible. The defendant also showed the determination and commitment to turn this plan into a reality."
Defreitas's court-appointed lawyer, Drew Carter, said that there was more to the case than meets the eye. "There's a lot more to the story," he told Judge Matsumoto. "I don't want to get into this now, because it's not a trial. "
Judge Matsumoto scheduled the hearing for Wednesday.