US busts ‘homegrown’ plot to attack army base

Six charged with planning massacre were not tied to any terror group.

SIX men have been charged with planning the massacre of hundreds of United States soldiers in an attack on a New Jersey military base.

In a worrying development, the radical Muslim plot appears to have been entirely “homegrown”, as intelligence officials revealed that none of the men had ties to Al-Qaeda or any other international terrorist network.

“What we are witnessing is a brand new form of terrorism,” Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) special agent J.P. Weis told a news conference on Tuesday.

“Today, threats come from smaller, more loosely defined individuals who may or may not be affiliated with Al-Qaeda, but are inspired by their violent ideology.”

The suspects allegedly planned to attack the Fort Dix Army Base with automatic weapons and possibly even rocket-propelled grenades.

They included three Albanian brothers who had entered the US illegally, as well as another Albanian, a Jordanian and a Turk, all of whom were legal residents. Aged between 22 and 28, the men held jobs ranging from taxi-driving to pizza delivery.

Nothing further has been revealed about the men or their aims. They had no clear motivation other than their stated desire to kill American soldiers in the name of Islam.

Officials said the arrests were the result of a 16-month operation during which two under- cover FBI informers infiltrated the group.

During that time, the men were filmed training with automatic weapons in rural Pennsylvania, conducting surveillance of military bases, watching videos of Osama bin Laden and the Sept 11 hijackers, and trying to buy AK-47 assault rifles.

The militants were arrested as they entered the final stages of their alleged plot to attack the military base.

“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,” said Mr Weis.

“We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army.

“They identified their target. They did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that.”

The FBI got wind of the plot in January last year, after one of the suspects took a jihadi-style video featuring all six men into a store and asked for it to be transferred onto a DVD. The store employee called the police.

The video showed 10 young men firing assault rifles while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic, Allah Akbar (God is Great).

It was the latest in a series of plots targeting sites in the US that authorities said they had foiled.

These included one in June last year involving a plan to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and destroy FBI offices and other buildings.

In 2004, a plan to attack the New York Stock Exchange and other financial institutions was uncovered.

A year before that, officials said they thwarted a plot to bomb the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

A CHILLING, YET STRANGE, TERROR PLOT, PAGE 16

Video store employee sounded alert.

A FEDERAL complaint issued on Tuesday by officials in New Jersey painted a picture of a bloody-minded, though occasionally unsophisticated, plot to kill soldiers at the Fort Dix Army base.

The plotters had terror training tapes and practised their shooting on semi-automatics at a firing range, yet much of their attention seemed focused on a map of Fort Dix taken from a pizzeria owned by the father of one of the plotters. At one point, the complaint said, one of the suspects hid the map in his mother’s car.

The case came to light in January last year, when one of the suspects asked a local video store to transfer the group’s improvised jihadist videotape onto a DVD.

A store employee alerted the FBI.

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