Relative : Jihadis loved America because "they gave their roofing companies patriotic names" but doesnt mention the Arabic ones
May 10, 2007
MIM: The brother in law of the Fort Dix Six seems too young to be having a senior moment so his claim that his aspiring jihadist relative sees "significance" in the fact that the Duka brothers gave their roofing companies "patriotic names" doesnt include the possibility that it was intended as a smokescreen. He spins it to the hilt and ludicrously claims "They wouldnt have named their companies "Colonial" and "National" if they didnt love this country says Luigi Gaeuci. "If they didnt love this country do you think they would have been here?
MIM:What Gauci didnt say was that prior to the patriotic names the brothers companies had distinctly Arabic ones:
Brother-in-law speaks of the Dix 6
THE BROTHER-IN-LAW of the three Duka brothers, accused in a plot to murder soldiers at Fort Dix, sees special significance in the fact that they gave their roofing companies "patriotic" names.
They wouldn't have named their companies "Colonial" and "National" if they didn't love this country, said Luigi Gaeuci.
"They were raised here," he said. "They lived here. They never even seen their country. They don't remember their country. They love this country. If they didn't love this country, do you think they would have been here?"
Speaking of his brothers-in-law, Dritan Duka, 28; Eljvir Duka, 23, and Shain Duka, 26, all of Cherry Hill, he said, "They were not involved in terrorism. The truth will come out. They didn't do nothing."
The Duka brothers are all in this country illegally. They are Albanians born in Macedonia.
They and Mohamed Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, of Cherry Hill, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan, and Serdar Tatar, 23, of Philadelphia, a legal resident born in Turkey, were arrested Monday night by federal agents after a 16-month investigation.
All five are being held on federal charges of conspiring to murder uniformed military personnel. The Dukas are also charged as illegal aliens possessing firearms.
A sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu, 24, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, is accused of aiding and abetting the Dukas in obtaining firearms, a lesser charge.
The feds said the conspirators had planned to buy automatic weapons from an undercover agent, which led to their arrests, and had made clear their violent intentions in conversations recorded by the undercover agent.
Ironically, Abdullahu came to Fort Dix eight years ago with a large contingent of Muslim immigrants fleeing religious persecution in Kosovo.
Five of the suspects are related. Abdullahu is the Dukas' cousin, and Shnewer is their brother-in-law.
Family members and people who know the alleged conspirators all expressed shock and disbelief at the charges against the young men when interviewed yesterday.
Gaeuci is married to the Dukas' sister, Naza. He said the family feels "afraid, panicked, horrified." He said his wife has not been able to contact her brothers.
He said the Duka brothers ran their roofing businesses with their father, Ferik Duka, out of their home on Mimosa Drive in Cherry Hill. But neither Colonial nor National Roofing is registered with the state of New Jersey or Camden County, officials said.
"Shocked" is an inadequate word to describe James Atalah's horror when he discovered that Mohamed Shnewer, an employee of the Philadelphia cab company where he works as an official, is accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.
He was especially horrified because his 25-year-old cousin is stationed there.
"For God's sake, if something would have happened to my cousin!" he exclaimed.
Shnewer was arrested in his cab at Philadelphia International Airport.
Atalah said he is a consultant to All City Taxi Inc., which is owned by his fiancee, Maria Perri. He said that Shnewer had been driving for the company for three months but that Shnewer's father, Ibrahim Mohamed Shnewer, has worked for the company for three years and is now a supervisor.
He said the father bought his son a van, which he was using as a cab. The purchase came after the son had failed to successfully run his father's Middle-Eastern grocery store on Route 70 East in Cherry Hill.
Perri said she knew the son as a "good citizen."
"He never gave us any trouble or anything," she said. "I was really shocked to hear these kind of things going on."
"In my opinion, if you don't like it here, go home," said Atalah, who is from Jordan. "We come here for peace. We come here for freedom."
Ismal Badat, president of the Islamic Center in Palmyra, Burlington County, which the Duka brothers attended, said everyone there was dumbfounded by the charges.
The brothers showed no signs of harboring hostilities, he said.
"Nothing. These were religious kids. They were hardworking boys. They were very friendly, well-behaved, well-mannered. There was nothing to indicate they were going off the path," Badat said.
"We don't talk about hatred at our mosque. We come to pray. Islam denounces terrorism."
According to law-enforcement sources, the Duka family entered the U.S. illegally in 1984. The family came from Macedonia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. The family later sought asylum in this country, but was denied, a source said.
When the three brothers were arrested Monday night, their father, Ferik Duka, was arrested on illegal-immigration charges, a source said.
His wife, who is also here illegally, was not arrested because she has to care for the family's youngest child, who is 16, a source said.
That child, the Duka brothers' sibling, was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen. The mother is expected to face a deportation hearing before federal immigration authorities on her status.
Shain Duka and Eljvir Duka are former students at Cherry Hill High School West, as were Tatar and Shnewer.
The Duka brothers might have become truck drivers for their own roofing companies, but they had poor driving records and didn't have driver's licenses.
Eljvir Duka, 23, has 23 active points and 24 suspensions. Dritan Duka has five active points and 11 suspensions. Shain Duka, the only brother who had obtained a driver's license, has three active points and 19 suspensions. His license expired in May 2003.
Violations included speeding, careless driving, improper passing and disobeying traffic-control signals, said Mike Horan, spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
"If you're illegal, you can't get anything from us," Horan said. "You don't belong."
MIM:Murat Duka, who said he knows the three brothers' father, Ferik, could not make sense of the news reports describing them as jihadists. What the NYT fails to note is that Duka is almost certainly non literate in english and possibly in his own language as well.
By KAREEM FAHIM AND ANDREA ELLIOTT
Philadelphia _ The three Duka brothers _ Eljvir, Shain and Dritan _ not only prayed here at the Al Aqsa Islamic Centre, but also recently began repairing its roof. The work came naturally to them, as members of a large family of ethnic Albanian immigrants who own more than a dozen roofing companies in New York and New Jersey. They fixed the roof free of charge, at the prodding of their imam and in the hopes of accruing good deeds.
But the job remains half finished after the brothers and three other Muslim men were taken into custody this week, charged with plotting a terrorist attack against soldiers at the Fort Dix military reservation.
Their arrests reverberated through the extended Duka family, from southern New Jersey to the village of Debar, in Macedonia, the family's ancestral home.
"It's fine to be a religion man," said Murat Duka, 55, a distant relative of the defendants and the first of about 200 Dukas to move to the Northeast, arriving in 1975 to work as a roofer. "But if you get too much to the religion, you get out of your mind and you do stupid things."
More than 4,600 miles away in Debar, a village near the Albanian border where the influence of American emigres is seen in restaurants named Manhattan, Dallas and Miami, Elez Duka, a first cousin of the three suspects, expressed disbelief that they could be involved in a scheme inspired by Islamic radicals.
"This has to be political propaganda," said Duka, 29, who recently opened an Internet cafe there with money sent by his brothers in America. "America has always helped us."
One day after the men were arraigned in US District Court in Camden, New Jersey, a portrait is emerging of the five who face charges of conspiring to kill US military personnel, which could send them to prison for life. Much less is known about the sixth, Agron Abdullahu, 24, whom the authorities say was a sniper in Kosovo but who faces lesser charges, carrying up to 10 years' imprisonment.
Serdar Tatar, 23, a Turkish immigrant who lives in Philadelphia, had grown so religious over the last two years that his father, Muslim Tatar, said they had become estranged. His Russian-born wife, who is pregnant with twins, said he was so busy working that he rarely had time to pray, but sometimes read the Koran and helped her 11-year-old son with his homework.
Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, a Palestinian born in Amman, Jordan, had for the last year kept up an exhausting routine of work, sleep and prayer, according to his mother. He drove a cab at night in Philadelphia, had recently dropped out of Camden County Community College to help the family pay two mortgages and attended services occasionally at the Al Aqsa centre.
And there were the Dukas, ages 23, 26 and 28, who came to this country illegally more than a decade ago. The brothers, like so many of their relatives and fellow ethnic Albanian immigrants in the area, have owned a pizzeria and two roofing companies. The brothers are not from an Arabic-speaking nation _ though one is married to a woman from Jordan _ but they sometimes used Arabic names for their roofing businesses: Qadr, which in Arabic means destiny, and Inshallah, a commonplace expression that means "if God wills it."
It is not fully known how the Dukas met the other defendants, but their lives began to intersect as early as 1999, when Tatar, Shnewer and Eljvir Duka, known as Elvis, were all enrolled at Cherry Hill West High School.
One of Shnewer's five sisters married Eljvir Duka and is pregnant. On Wednesday, Lamese and Israa Shnewer, ages 12 and 14, stood in the threshold of their house in Cherry Hill, holding tabloid newspapers with their brother's picture splashed across the front. Cars slowed down as they passed. People snapped pictures with their cell phones.
Israa pointed to a neighbour's house and said, "They hated us to begin with."
The criminal complaint filed against the suspects on Tuesday portrayed Shnewer as the leader of the group, speaking most frequently in taped conversations about tactics. But his mother, Faten Shnewer, said in an interview that the charges "made no sense".
She said that televised images from the war in Iraq had angered him, and wondered whether, while he was watching the news, he had said something that was misinterpreted by the authorities.
"He's a good boy," she said as she stood in the doorway of a relative's home. "I'm proud of who we are."
Co-workers and relatives described him as shy with a sweet nature. "Mohamad was like a teddy bear," said Jaime Antrim, the manager of a restaurant in Marlton, New Jersey, where Shnewer once worked. He showed his religious devotion in some ways _ he would not eat pizza cut with a knife that had come into contact with pork _ but also served alcohol and did not break for the daily Muslim prayers.
Muslim Tatar, who owns the SuperMario's Pizza restaurant near Fort Dix from which the authorities say the suspects took a map of the base, said his son Serdar had gravitated to radical Islam in recent years, prompting a rift between them.
"I'm not a religious person," he said. "I don't want my son to be a religious person, but he was a religious person."
The family came to America from Turkey in 1992, settling in Cherry Hill. Muslim Tatar said that he believes that his son fell in with the wrong crowd when he met some of the other suspected plotters in high school. On at least one occasion, Tatar said, his son brought one of the suspected plotters to visit him at the pizza parlour in Cookstown, New Jersey.
"I told him, 'I don't like this kid, I don't want you together'," Tatar recalled Wednesday.
Though the criminal complaint says that Serdar Tatar became familiar with Fort Dix from delivering pizzas on the base and procured the map in November, his wife said he had not worked at the restaurant in two years, and his father said SuperMario's has only been delivering to the base for three months.
"Nobody take map," the elder Tatar said.
After quitting SuperMario's, Serdar Tatar went to work at 7-Eleven, and recently became manager of one of the chain's stores near the Temple University campus in Philadelphia.
His wife of a year, Khalida Mirzhyeiva, said that he worked long shifts and rarely went to the mosque.
"He planned to have a child and a good family," Ms Mirzhyeiva, 29, said in a telephone interview, which was translated from her native Russian by a neighbour. "He did not plan to kill anybody."
"He isn't a terrorist," she said. "He follows his religion, the Muslim religion, and he cannot kill."
Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka were all born in Debar, Macedonia, like many of their relatives.
The extended family's trek to America began with Murat Duka, who opened a roofing company in New York, in 1980, five years after he came to the United States. When conditions in his country deteriorated in 1985, a stream of relatives began coming to Brooklyn, where some learned the roofing trade from him, he said.
Today, about 40 to 50 Duka families live in New York and New Jersey. Many of them settled on Staten Island, which is home to a thriving mosque for Albanians.
"Everybody's shocked from this," said Ferid Bedrolli, the imam of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Centre in Staten Island, where the three Duka defendants and their father used to pray before moving from Brooklyn to Cherry Hill in the late 1990s. "They didn't look like really they are bad people."
Another imam at the mosque, Tahir Kukigi, described the father of the defendants as a "simple man" and said the family "never had any conflicts with anyone".
At the mosque in Philadelphia, the imam, Mohammed Shehata, declined an interview but gave a statement through a spokesman. "We have constantly urged our community members to report, either to us or to law enforcement, any suspicious incidents," it read. "Had we noticed anything about these individuals that would have aroused suspicions, I can assure you that it would have been reported."
In Macedonia, Argitim Fida, mayor of the Dukas' home village, said that on Sept 11, 2001, students had a candlelight vigil in the town's main square. The town council set a special meeting yesterday to discuss how to respond to the arrests.
"If Albanians are traditionally pro-American, we in Debar have to be more pro-American than anyone," Mayor Fida said.
The Dukas are typical of those who have thrived from such ties: 28 of 37 local family members live in America now.
The parents and uncle of the Duka defendants could not be reached for comment.
Murat Duka, who said he knows the three brothers' father, Ferik, could not make sense of the news reports describing them as jihadists.
"From the town we come, we're not a religious people," he said.
Told that the three brothers had been repairing the roof of the Philadelphia mosque, Murat Duka said he had done the same at local mosques and churches, and donated money to synagogues. "You've got to donate because you don't know next life which one is the true story," he said. "So you've got to be balanced." NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE