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Fort Dix jihad plot shows existence of "White Al Qaeda" Kosovo as international terror hub

June 5, 2007

Belgrade, 9 May (AKI) - The arrest of four ethnic Albanians, a Jordanian and a Turk in the United States on Tuesday on suspicion of planning a terrorist attack at the United States army base in Fort Dix, New Jersey, confirms the existence of a "white Al-Qaeda", Balkan terrorism expert Darko Trifunovic told Adnkronos International (AKI) on Wednesday. Trifunovic said the arrests showed "white Al-Qaeda at work." He compared the Fort Dix plot to a February attack in Salt Lake City when a Bosnian Muslim youth, Sulejman Talovic went on a shopping mall shooting rampage. Six people including Talovic were killed another four were injured in the attack.

Trifunovic, a professor at Belgrade University's Faculty of Security Studies, was the first to develop a theory of "white Al-Qaeda", which he said was introduced to the Balkans during 1992-1995 civil war in Bosnia when thousands of 'mujahadeen' from Islamic countries came to fight on the side of local Muslims. Many mujahadeen have remained in the country, and are believed to been indoctrinating local youths with radical Islam and even operating terrorist training camps, Trifunovic said, quoting western and Balkans intelligence sources.

Al-Qaeda has adopted a new tactics of using white European youths for terrorist attacks, "because of their non-Arabic appearance," Trifunovic told AKI. "The strategy is to indoctrinate or poison the hearts and minds of youngsters to psyche them up for the future terror operations," Trifunovic said.

"And that is exactly what is now happening in the United States," he added. The US authorities arrested three ethnic Albanian brothers from Serbia's breakaway Kosovo province, Sain, Elvir and Dritan Duka, another ethnic Albanian, Agron Abdulahu, a Jordanian, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, and Serdar Tatar, a Turk.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Newark, New Jersey, said the suspects "were planning an attack on Fort Dix in which they would kill as many soldiers as possible". Drewniak described the group as "Islamist militants from the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East," who apparently had no ties to international terrorist organisations, but were organised on a local level.

Several of the suspects said they were ready to kill and die "in the name of Allah," according to court papers. The defendants, all men in their 20s, reportedly include a pizza deliveryman suspected of using his job to scout out Fort Dix, three builders and taxi-driver. They were arrested while trying to buy AK-47 assault weapons and M-16s from an informant, authorities said.

Many Balkan terrorism experts have been warning for years that Al-Qaeda had active cells in Muslim-majority Kosovo and a training camp in the village of Ropotovo. Kosovo has been under United Nations control 1999, when NATO airstrikes drove Serbian forces out of the province amid ethnic fighting and allegations of gross human rights abuses.

International officials have ignored the warnings and minimised the danger Al-Qaeda poses, according to Balkan analysts.

In a joint NATO-Bulgarian report in March 2005, the head of Bulgarian state security Kirco Kirov cited Kosovo as a "direct source of regional instability and a hub for international terrorism." The report called for joint action by all European countries.

The US authorities said that Abdulahu was a sharp shooter in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) before fleeing to the US. Fort Dix is a training ground for American soldiers and reservists before they are sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in 1999 it served as a shelter for thousands of ethnic Albanian refugees from Kosovo.

Serb immigrants' web sites noted that US officials carefully avoided identifying the four ethnic Albanians as such, calling them only "Islamic militants from former Yugoslavia." A commentator on the SerbBlog said that Washington, which backs independence for Kosovo, is embarrassed by the discovery of the Fort Dix plot, "because the truth might mess up the PR for Kosovo Albanians getting to rip off a piece of Serbia to create their own country - a move that has the full support of the US State Department."

Belgrade military analyst Zoran Dragisic said the Fort Dix plot "once again shows that Islamist terrorism is highly organised - from Kosovo to America - and the US intelligence services know this very well." Dragsic expressed doubt, however, that the latest incident would change the American stance on Kosovo, "because Washington doesn't change its positions easily."


Brothers charged with plotting terrorism trace roots to Macedonia By Kareem Fahim and Andrea Elliott
Thursday, May 10, 2007

PHILADELPHIA: The three Duka brothers, Eljvir, Shain and Dritan, not only prayed at Al Aqsa Islamic Center here, they also were slowly 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 for free, 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 arrested Tuesday, charged with plotting an attack against soldiers at the Fort Dix military reservation in New Jersey. Their arrests reverberated through the extended Duka family, as far as Debar, a village in Macedonia near the Albanian border that is the family's ancestral home.

"It's fine to be a religion man," said Murat Duka, 55, a distant relative of the six and the first of about 200 Dukas to move to the Northeast United States, arriving in 1975 to work as a roofer. "But if you get too much to religion, you get out of your mind and you do stupid things."

In Debar, where the influence of U.S. émigrés is seen in restaurants named Manhattan, Dallas and Miami, Elez Duka, a first cousin of the three suspects, expressed disbelief that they could have been involved in a plot inspired by Islamic radicals.

"This has to be political propaganda," said Elez Duka, 29, who has opened an Internet café there with money sent by his brothers in the United States. "America has always helped us."

A portrait is emerging of the five who face charges of conspiring to kill U.S. military personnel, which could send them to prison for life. The men vowed in taped conversations "to kill as many soldiers as possible" in the name of Islam, the federal authorities said. They had no other clear motivation. Much less is known about the sixth, Agron Abdullahu, 24, who faces lesser charges, carrying a possible 10 years' imprisonment.

Serdar Tatar, 23, a Turkish immigrant who lives in Philadelphia, had grown so religious over the past two years that his father, Muslim Tatar, said they had become estranged. Serdar Tatar's wife, pregnant with twins, said he was so busy working he rarely had time to pray, but sometimes read the Koran and helped her 11-year-old son with his homework.

Mohamad Shnewer, 22, a Palestinian born in Amman, kept up an exhausting routine of work, sleep and prayer for the past year, his mother said. He drove a cab at night in Philadelphia, had recently dropped out of college to help the family pay two mortgages and attended services occasionally at Al Aqsa.

And there were the Dukas, 23, 26 and 28, who came to the United States 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 - although 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 Insalah, a variant of inshallah, "if God wills it."

The lives of the Dukas and the other defendants began to intersect as early as 1999, when Tatar, Shnewer and Eljvir Duka were enrolled at Cherry Hill West High School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

One of Shnewer's five sisters married Eljvir Duka and is pregnant. On Wednesday, Lamese and Israa Shnewer, 12 and 14, stood on the threshold of their house in Cherry Hill holding tabloid newspapers with their brother's picture on the front. Cars slowed as they passed. People snapped pictures with their cellphones.

Israa pointed to a neighbor's house and said, "They hated us to begin with."

The criminal complaint portrays 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 she 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, 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 been in contact with pork - but served alcohol and did not break for daily prayers.

Muslim Tatar, who owns the SuperMario's Pizza restaurant near Fort Dix from which the authorities assert the suspects took a map of the base, said his son Serdar had gravitated to radical Islam in recent years, opening 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 the United States from Turkey in 1992 and settled in Cherry Hill. Muslim Tatar said he believed that his son fell in with the wrong crowd in high school, when he met some of the others now in jail with him. On one occasion, Tatar said, his son brought one of the others to visit him at the pizza parlor in Cookstown, New Jersey.

"I told him, 'I don't like this kid, I don't want you together,' " Tatar recalled.

Although the criminal complaint says Serdar Tartar became familiar with Fort Dix from delivering pizzas to 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 had been delivering to the base for only three months. "Nobody took a map," the elder Tatar said.

After quitting SuperMario's, Serdar Tatar went to work for a 7-Eleven and recently became manager of one of the chain's stores near Temple University in Philadelphia. His wife of one year, Khalida Mirzhyeiva, who was born in Russia, said he had worked long shifts and rarely gone to the mosque.

"He planned to have a child and a good family," Mirzhyeiva, 29, said by telephone in an interview that was translated from Russian by a neighbor. "He isn't a terrorist. He follows his religion, the Muslim religion, and he cannot kill."

Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka were all born in Debar, Macedonia. The extended family's trek to the United States began with Murat Duka, who opened a roofing company in New York in 1980, five years after he arrived. When conditions in Macedonia deteriorated in 1985, a stream of relatives began coming to New York, 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, a borough of New York City that is home to a thriving mosque for ethnic Albanians.

"Everybody's shocked from this," said Ferid Bedrolli, imam of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on Staten Island where the Duka brothers and their father used to pray before moving to Cherry Hill in the late 1990s.

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