The FBI has arrested two New Jersey men in a shadowy terrorism plot tied to a radical Islamic group based in Somalia, both apprehended as they were preparing to board separate flights from JFK International Airport earlier this evening.
Both individuals were charged with conspiring to commit an act of international terrorism through a group tied to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network, according to officials familiar with the details of the arrests. The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The agencies involved in the arrests also declined to talk about the case.
Jose Lozano, a spokesman for the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, said only: “Two individuals were arrested at JFK in connection with an ongoing investigation. At this time, we can provide no further details because the investigation is ongoing. The arrests do not relate to an immediate threat.”
The arrests were the culmination of Operation Arabian Knight, officials said. Details remain sketchy, but authorities said the suspects have been under surveillance for some time and were being shadowed by an undercover New York City cop who managed to infiltrate their circle of friends and keep tabs as they bought air tickets and prepared to travel overseas.
The two were identified as Mohamed Hamoud Alessa, 20, of North Bergen, and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 26, of Elmwood Park, who were both apprehended before they could board separate flights to Egypt. The arrests were made by teams of state and federal law-enforcement agents who have been investigating the pair since October 2006. Neither man is married. Both are believed to be American citizens.
They are scheduled to appear Monday in U.S. District Court in Newark.
Around 11 p.m., more than a dozen FBI agents showed up on Falmouth Street in Elmwood Park at a two-story house where Almonte is believed to have stayed.
In North Bergen, FBI agents, North Bergen police and the NYPD descended on the home of Mohamed Alessa as neighbors looked on. Alessa’s parents live on the top floor of a house on 81st street, a quiet row of middle class homes.
The street was blocked off shortly after 10: 30 pm. As lights went on throughout the house, agents streamed in and out. Agents had gathered earlier at a Home Depot Parking lot.
Authorities said the men planned to join up with a Somalia-based Islamist terror group called al Shabaab, an organization of several thousand fighters spread through Somalia’s southern region. Al Shabaab, whose full name means “Mujahideen Youth Movement,” has had ties to al Qaeda since 2007. Last year, federal authorities in Minnesota charged 14 men connected to a plot designed to entice young Americans to join up with al Shabaab. And, in February, the New York Times reported the group announced it was joining forces with the ‘’international jihad of Al Qaeda.”
Recruiting people who can travel on American passports is becoming an increasing problem for national security agencies. Officials fear such homegrown terrorists could pose a grave threat by being able to freely leave and re-enter the country to carry out attacks, in contrast to foreign plotters who are limited to passports from countries known as terrorist havens.
The arrests come on the heels of last month’s attempt to set off a car bomb in Times Square and, before that, the Christmas Day incident in which an African tried to blow up an airliner by setting off explosives inside his underwear. Both attacks were unsuccessful.
(Source: NJ Star Ledger / YWN-MD-03 / YWN BBRY Group 3)
outrageous! racial profiling! free these men and let them go and terrorize whomever they choose (a little hint of sarcasm)
nice waspy names! 😉