[UPDATES BELOW] 9:50PM EST: Four New York City men were arrested Wednesday in connection with an alleged plot to blow up New York City synagogues and other city locations, WNBC reports.
Raids by the FBI-NYPD Joint Terrorist Task Force in the Bronx captured the suspected ringleader and three followers in what law enforcement sources are calling a homegrown terrorist plot. Investigators stress the suspects’ meetings had been infiltrated early on and there was “no chance” the alleged plot could succeed.
Investigators said several of the suspects are Muslims who allegedly talked about destroying two Jewish temples, including at least one in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. The men ordered and accepted delivery of materials they believed were bomb-making ingredients, authorities said. But investigators said they made sure the materials the suspects received were inert.
Officials tell WNBC they moved in now so the alleged plot could not progress any further.
The four men are in custody and are expected to be arraigned Thursday in White Plains federal court on terrorism-related counts.
An official announcement of the arrests is expected later Wednesday or Thursday morning.
UPDATE 10:30PM EST: The FBI arrested four men in New York City on Wednesday evening in an alleged plot to detonate a bomb outside a Jewish temple and to attack an Air National Guard Base in upstate Newburgh.
Officials said arrests came after a long-running undercover operation that began in Newburgh.
Federal authorities announced the arrests of James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen on charges arising from a plot to detonate explosives near a synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, and to shoot military planes located at the New York Air National Guard Base at Stewart Airport in Newburgh with Stinger surface-to-air guided missiles.
In their efforts to obtain weapons, the defendants dealt with an informant acting under law enforcement supervision, and the FBI and other agencies monitored the defendants’ actions up to the time of arrest, including providing an inactive missile and inert explosives to the informant for the defendants.
The investigation had been under way for about a year.
Rep. Peter King of New York, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, was briefed on the case following the arrests.
“This was a long, well-planned investigation, and it shows how real the threat is from homegrown terrorists,” said King.
“All the explosives and missiles were obtained from the FBI, so the public was never in danger.”
STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON FOILED TERRORIST PLOT FOR SYNAGOGUE BOMBINGS IN RIVERDALE AND MISSILE ATTACKS ON U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT
“I want to congratulate the men and women of the NYPD, the New York State Police, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force who tonight foiled a terrorist plot that targeted Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx for bombing. The same plot also targeted U.S. military aircraft in Newburgh for Stinger Missile attacks. While the bombs these terrorists attempted to plant tonight were – unbeknownst to them – fake, this latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism.”
UPDATE 11:30PM EST: Mayor Bloomberg & NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly are expected to attend Shachris 6:45AM at the Riverdale Jewish Center – and greet the shul members.
UPDATE 11:40PM EST: FBI agents posing as militants sold them what they thought was 30 pounds of C-4 and a plane-downing Stinger missile. The weaponry was all phony. The men were arrested as they planted fake bombs in front of the Riverdale Temple in the Bronx and under cars parked in front of the synagogue. They also allegedly planned to blow up a nearby Jewish Community Center.
Witnesses said an NYPD vehicle blocked a black SUV outside the temple and then officers broke in the windows and handcuffed the four men inside the car.
All four men were US-born.
Arrested was alleged ringleader James Cromitie of Newburgh, the son of an Afghan immigrant and his African American wife.
Cromitie served a long stretch in prison in the past.
Alleged henchment David Williams, Onta Williams and Leguerre Payen were busted with him.
Sources said the three were jailhouse converts to Islam.
The four alleged terrorists are expected to be arraigned Thursday in White Plains federal court.
“These guys were angry, they had intent and they were searching for capacity,” a senior federal law enforcement official told The NY Daily News.
But, the official added, “It’s not exactly Al Qaeda.”
UPDATE 12:45AM EST: An Important Message from Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt
You have doubtless heard on the news that our shul was targeted by terrorist bombers in a plot that the FBI, NYPD, and Department of Homeland Security were carefully monitoring from its inception. The bombs, which were supposed to be planted in front of the RJC and in front of the Riverdale Temple, were provided through FBI agents posing as representatives of a Pakistani terrorist organization. These armaments were inert and at no time was there any real danger. All of the suspects were apprehended. Police Commissioner Kelly and representatives of the FBI, NYPD, and Homeland Security came personally to the RJC to inform the community and to allay our fears. We are assured that although there is no residual danger, the 50th Precinct will be offering us special surveillance and protection. Our public officials have also come forward to assure their help in keeping the RJC secure.
UPDATE 12:50PM EST: STATEMENT FROM GOVERNOR DAVID A. PATERSON
“Four New York State residents were arrested on Wednesday, May 20, 2009, as a result of a collaborative law enforcement operation conducted by the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force.
“According to the United States Attorney’s Office, the defendants include four residents of Newburgh, New York, three of whom are United States citizens and one of Haitian descent, for their alleged involvement in a terrorist conspiracy to attack locations in the Bronx and Orange County, New York.
“Through the cooperation, hard work, and dedication of federal, state, and local law enforcement a serious threat was mitigated and terrorist attacks in our State were thwarted. Throughout the course of this investigation, law enforcement professionals have assured that all measures of security to protect our citizens were taken and, thanks to their watchful eye, at no time was anyone in danger.
“I applaud the efforts of the FBI, the New York Police Department, the New York State Police and other participating investigative agencies in bringing this case to a successful resolution. The State is proud of our federal, state and local law enforcement professionals. This case clearly illustrates that the threat of terrorism in New York is persistent.
“The threat of terrorism affects all of our communities, regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity. We must remain vigilant against those who wish to do us harm. If you witness activities that seem suspicious or out of place, please report them to law enforcement. In New York City, please call 1-888-NYC-SAFE (1-888-692-7233). Elsewhere in New York State, please call 1-866-SAFE-NYS (1-866-723-3697). If you see something, say something.
(Source: WNBC / WCBSTV / NY Daily News / NY Times)