Four Arrested on JFK Terror Plot
Updates: Russell Defreitas, convicted of terrorism conspiracy charges, was sentenced to life in prison on February 17, 2011. Abdel Nur pleaded guilty to one count of providing material support to a terrorist plot and was sentenced to 15 years in prison on January 13, 2011. Abdul Kadir was convicted of terrorism conspiracy charges and sentenced to life in prison on December 15, 2010. On January 13, 2012, Kareem Ibrahim was sentenced to life in prison.
Posted: June 11, 2007
Four men, including a former employee at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and a former member of the Parliament of the South American nation of Guyana, have been charged with conspiring to destroy buildings, fuel tanks, and fuel pipelines at JFK with explosives.
The FBI arrested one of the defendants, former JFK employee Russell Defreitas, a U.S. citizen and native of Guyana, in Brooklyn, New York. Abdul Kadir, a citizen of Guyana who has served as a member of the Guyanese Parliament, Abdel Nur, also from Guyana, and Kareem Ibrahim, a native of Trinidad, were detained in Trinidad and extradited to New York on June 25, 2008. They each pleaded not guilty.
Defreitas, the apparent leader of the group, was reportedly motivated to blow up the airport's major jet-fuel supply tanks and pipeline after seeing missiles loaded onto a plane he thought was headed for Israel. According to court documents, Defreitas told an informant that "Muslims also incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass," and that he "wanted to do something to get those bastards."
Court documents have also alleged that, in addition to planting explosives at the airport, Defreitas also suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood. Several other attacks in the U.S. have been plotted by American Muslim extremists motivated by hatred of Jews and Israel.
As alleged in the complaint, the conspirators sent Defreitas to conduct video and photo surveillance of JFK on several occasions in January 2007, where he was able to identify targets and escape routes, and assess the vulnerability of airport security. The defendants also reportedly obtained satellite photographs of JFK from the internet and traveled frequently between the United States, Guyana, and Trinidad to discuss their plans and to solicit financial and operational assistance from groups sympathetic to their mission.
The defendants allegedly were in contact with, and sought assistance from, Jamaat Al Muslimeen (JAM) – a small radical Islamic group that has been largely dormant since it staged a failed coup in Trinidad in 1990. Defendant Kadir was an old acquaintance of JAM leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, and – according to the FBI – was the contact person to the group. Authorities are reportedly also looking into connections to Iran and groups in southern Iraq.
The defendants also reportedly tried to secure financial and operational support from Adnan El Shukrijumah, a U.S. permanent resident from Saudi Arabia who has been designated as one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists. El Shukrijumah has since been indicted for organizing a terrorist attack against the New York City subway system.
An informant working with law enforcement agents began monitoring the plot in its early stages and was able to record the a conversation where Defreitas predicted that the attacks would result in the destruction of the entire airport, that only a few people would survive the attack, and that because of the location of the targeted fuel pipelines, part of Queens would explode.
In a later recorded conversation with his co-conspirators in May 2007, Defreitas compared the plot to attack JFK airport to the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, stating, "even the Twin Towers can't touch it," adding that, "this can destroy the economy of America for some time."
"Had the plot been carried out, it could have resulted in unfathomable damage, deaths, and destruction," stated an official from the Attorney General's office.
If convicted of conspiring to attack JFK with explosives, each of the defendants faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.