63 year old Muslim from Brooklyn behind [plot to destroy JFK and put entire U.S. "in mourning" to earn his "place in paradise"
June 2, 2007
Jun 2, 2007
Local Radicalized Muslim Man At Center Of Plot
(CBS/AP) NEW YORK Russell Defreitas, a radicalized Muslim living in Brooklyn, has seethed with rage toward the U.S., West and Israel for more than a decade, according to authorities.
Working as a cargo handler for a private company, Defreitas said he saw military parts being shipped to Israel that he thought would be used to kill Muslims.
Later, he angrily recounted watching Israel fight Hezbollah in last year's war in southern Lebanon, believing Muslims always incurred the wrath of the world while Jews got a "pass."
Those experiences eventually pushed his hatred to a murderous crescendo, federal authorities say.
Defreitas, a U.S. citizen native to Guyana, decided that the "bastards would have to pay," and he would blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, its fuel tanks and its pipeline in a spectacular attack designed to kill thousands and cripple America's economy.
The destruction of the airport, with its connection to the nation's beloved former president, would put "the whole country in mourning," boasted Defreitas, who's accused of conspiring with three other men.
Defreitas, 63, never got a chance to carry out his plan and would not get the "place in paradise" he said he desired, authorities said Saturday. He was arrested a day earlier, and two of his accused coconspirators were arrested in Trinidad. The fourth accused man was still being sought.
The four Muslim men were indicted on terrorism charges. The government said they were part of a dangerous and determined terrorist cell.
"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."
Despite their "extraordinary efforts," the men never obtained any explosives, authorities said.
"Pulling off any bombing of this magnitude would not be easy in today's environment," said Former U.S. State Department counterterrorism expert Fred Burton, though he added that it was difficult to determine the severity of the threat without knowing all the facts of the case.
Since Defreitas had worked at JFK, security has tightened and his knowledge of the operation was severely outdated.
Defreitas was arraigned Saturday in federal court in Brooklyn, where he was held pending a bail hearing Wednesday.
Two other men, Abdul Kadir of Guyana and Kareem Ibrahim of Trinidad, were in custody in Trinidad. A fourth man, Abdel Nur of Guyana, was still being sought in Trinidad.
The suspects believed explosives could ignite the pipeline at JFK and destroy the airport and parts of Queens, where the pipeline runs underground, according to the indictment. Shutting down the airport would cripple America's economy temporarily.
"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States," Defreitas said in the indictment. "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 pipeline, owned by Buckeye Pipeline Co., takes fuel from a facility in Linden, N.J., to the airport. Other lines service LaGuardia Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport.
Buckeye spokesman Roy Haase said the company, which moves petroleum through pipelines in a number of states, had been informed of the threat from the beginning.
Kadir, a former member of Parliament in Guyana and an engineer by training, was arrested in Trinidad for attempting to secure money for "terrorist operations," according to a Guyanese police commander who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kadir left his position in Parliament last year. Muslims make up about 9 percent of the former Dutch and British colony's 770,000 population, mostly from the Sunni sect.
Isha Kadir, the Guyanese suspect's wife, said her husband flew from Guyana to Trinidad on Thursday. She said he was arrested Friday as he was boarding a flight from Trinidad to Venezuela, where he planned to pick up a travel visa to attend an Islamic religious conference in Iran.
"We have no interest in blowing up anything in the U.S.," she said Saturday from the couple's home in Guyana. "We have relatives in the U.S."
Investigators received information about the plot in January 2006, according to the indictment and used a confidential source, a convicted drug dealer, to infiltrate the group and gather evidence against them.
The country's Joint Terrorism Task Force recorded and surveilled them, learning that they videotaped and took photos of JFK on four occasions in January 2007.
The cell, the complaint alleged, even reached out to Jamaat al Muslimeen, a Trinidadian Muslim group responsible for a deadly coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990 that left 24 people dead. The complaint says Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of JAM.
Authorities finally decided to pounce after Defreitas said on May 27 that he was happy to see that the plan, code named "chicken farm," was moving forward, according to the criminal complaint.
Defreitas, who retired from his job at JFK in 1995, was nabbed Friday night walking out of a Brooklyn diner.
The arrests mark the latest in a series of alleged homegrown terrorism plots targeting high-profile American landmarks.
A year ago, seven men were arrested in what officials called the early stages of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and destroy FBI offices and other buildings.
A month later, authorities broke up a plot to bomb underwater New York City train tunnels to flood lower Manhattan.
And six people were arrested a month ago in an alleged plot to unleash a bloody rampage on Fort Dix in New Jersey.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the arrests of Defreitas and the others was a reminder that the city was still a top target for terrorists.
"Once again would-be terrorists have put New York City in their crosshairs," he said.