Five Men Convicted of Conspiring to Attack in Fort Dix
Update: Brothers Dritan, Shain, and Eljvir Duka were sentenced in federal court in New Jersey to life in prison on April 29, 2009. Mohamad Shnewer was sentenced to life plus 30 years in prison, and Serder Tatar was sentenced to 33 years in prison on April 30, 2009.
Posted: December 23, 2008
A federal jury in Camden, New Jersey, has convicted five men of conspiring to murder members of the U.S. military. The men, all Muslim immigrants who lived in South Jersey and Philadelphia, may have been motivated by their hatred of Jews and Zionism.
Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 23, Serdar Tatar, 25, and brothers Dritan Duka, 30, Shain Duka, 27, and Eljvir Duka, 25, were convicted on December 22, 2008 for conspiring to kill American soldiers at the Fort Dix army base. The jury acquitted the men of attempted murder.
Evidence against the defendants was drawn from secretly taped conversations between them and FBI informants, including discussions about Jews and Zionism. During one recorded conversation about the plot to attack Fort Dix, Shnewer, an American citizen who was born in Jordan, told an undercover informant that his first choice would be to kill Jews in Israel, "I love to kill Jews. I tell you this, in all honesty, it is a dream of mine."
Some of the conversations also demonstrate that the men were motivated by "their desire to 'avenge' the supposed crimes of Zionism against the Palestinian Arabs," according to the Department of Justice.
Shnewer told Eljvir Duka a story about an argument he had with a Jewish man who believed the Jews and Muslims could live in peace. During the apparent argument, Shnewer accused Jews during the 1948 War of Independence of "cutting open pregnant women's stomach…and killing them." He then said that he told the man that there will never be peace, adding, "We know that the Jews will be slaughtered in this land."
Shnewer and Duka claimed that the Jews believe they are the chosen people and that anybody who is not Jewish "deserves death." The men said, "This is in their Torah. This is in their book. So what kind of person do you think they are?"
Other evidence included jihadist propaganda videos, clips of dead American soldiers, and videos of beheadings of kidnapping victims.
The judge denied the defendant's request to suppress the anti-Semitic comments recorded during the investigation, as well as the beheading videos they had in their possession, from entering the court. "Anti-Zionist hatred is one of the reasons, if not the primary reason why they planned to attack Ft. Dix," according to court documents.
The FBI began investigating the men in January 2007 following a tip from a video store employee. A customer had brought in a video for duplication which showed the suspects shooting assault weapons at a firing range in the Poconos while calling for jihad and shouting in Arabic 'Allah Akbar' ('God is Great'). Within six months, the FBI had two informants in the group recording meetings and phone conversations.
The men were arrested after Dritain and Shain Duka purchased four automatic M-16 rifles and three semi-automatic AK-47 rifles to be used in a future attack from an undercover agent.
In addition to Fort Dix, the men considered attacking other army bases in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as federal buildings in Washington, D.C., including the Capital Building, the FBI and CIA headquarters and the White House, according to court documents. The defendants also discussed assassinating President George Bush.
In addition to the conspiracy charge, Shnewer and Dritain and Shain Duka were convicted of possessing firearms with intent to attack the army base. All three Duka brothers, who arrived in the United States illegally as children from the former Yugoslavia, were found guilty of possessing firearms as illegal immigrants.
A sixth co-defendant, Agron Abdullahu, was sentenced to 20 months in prison in March 2008, after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide firearms to illegal aliens. Abdullahu admitted to providing firearms on at least two occasions to the Duka brothers, as well as purchasing 2,500 rounds of ammunition to be used by the men.
All five defendants face a maximum sentence of life in prison.