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Four Convicted in New York for Terrorist Plot Against Synagogues

Update: On June 29, 2011, James Cromities, David Williams and Onta Williams were sentenced to 25 years in prison. On September 7, 2011, Laguerre Payen received the same sentence as his co-conspirators.

Posted: May 21, 2009

Four New York residents have been convicted of plotting to attack two synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base in Newburgh, New York.


American citizens James Cromitie (aka Abdul Rahman), David Williams (aka Daoud and DL) and Onta Williams (aka Hamza) and Haitian native Laguerre Payen (aka Amin and Almondo) were convicted of planting what they believed to be bombs in cars outside of the Riverdale Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center. They also plotted to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base located at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York.


All four of the men, who were fueled by their hatred of America and the Jews, were arrested on May 20, 2009, immediately after planting the inert explosives and charged in an eight-count indictment for conspiring and attempting to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States, conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, and conspiracy and attempt to kill U.S. officers and employees.  "These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said at a court hearing the day after the arrests.  "These are extremely violent men."        

The investigation began in June 2008 when Cromitie, the apparent leader of the group, met an undercover informant at Masjid al-Ikhlas, a mosque in Newburgh, New York.  In a conversation at the mosque, Cromitie explained that his parents were originally from Afghanistan and that, due to this connection with the country, he was upset about the U.S. military's war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Cromitie expressed his interest in doing "something to America" and said that if he were to die, he would go to "paradise" as a martyr, according to the complaint.  Court documents also alleged that Cromitie deemed President Bush the "anti-Christ" and said he wanted to shoot the President "seven hundred times."

In subsequent conversations with the informant in October 2008, Cromitie, described in court documents as "a hate-filled, virulent anti-Semite who wanted to commit terrorist acts against Jews and the United States," stated his desire to "destroy" the Jews.  "The worst brother in the whole Islamic world is better than 10 billion Yahudi (Jews)," Cromitie stated.  "With no hesitation, I will kill 10 Yahudis."   

In November 2008, Cromitie and the informant went to Philadelphia to attend a meeting of the Muslim Alliance of North America (MANA), a mostly African-American organization that seeks to strengthen Muslim communities through empowering mosques.

During the trip, Cromitie reportedly discussed potential targets to attack in New York, saying, "the best target [the World Trade Center] was hit already." In reference to a terrorist attack on a synagogue, Cromitie expressed his hatred of Jews, allegedly saying, "I hate those motherf-----s, those f-----g Jewish bastards…I would like to get [destroy] a synagogue."

The men began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in the Bronx in April 2009.  During the surveillance, Cromitie allegedly pointed to Jews in the street and said "if he had a gun, he would shoot each one in the head," according to the district attorney's statement.  Cromitie also said that bombing the Jewish Community Center would be a "piece of cake."

All four defendants are reported to have discussed details of the planned attack with the informant and confirmed that each of them was willing to participate in the attacks for "jihad" and to support Jaish-e-Mohammed, a U.S. designated terrorist group in Pakistan that has openly declared war against the U.S.  During the discussion, Onta Williams allegedly stated, "They [the United States military] are killing Muslim brothers and sisters in Muslim countries so, if we kill them here [in the United States] with IEDs and Stingers, it is equal."  David Williams added that "it does not matter" if Jews are killed in the attack.

In preparation for the attack, the men went to a warehouse in Stamford, Connecticut to obtain what they believed to be a surface-to-air guided missile system and three IEDs, which they transported back to Newburgh. The men also purchased a semiautomatic handgun to use during the planned terrorist operation.

All four of the defendants reportedly converted to Islam while serving time in prison for an array of charges, including drug possession and assault charges.  Cromitie was arrested 27 times, at least a dozen of which were for drug offenses, according to New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.  


According to media reports, the four men attended the same Newburgh mosque, Masjid al-Ikhlas, though it is unclear if that is where they met each other. The imam of the mosque, Salahuddin Muhammad, reportedly converted to Islam while serving a 12-year prison sentence for robbery and has served as the Muslim chaplain at the Fishkill Correctional Facility, where James Cromitie was previously incarcerated, since 1985. Muhammad was appointed as the imam of the prison by Warith Deen Umar, whom he reportedly met while they were both serving prison sentences in the 1970s. Umar was in charge of placing Muslim chaplains in the New York Prison system before he was banned from the New York State Department of Corrections for praising the perpetrators of the September 11 terrorist attacks.


The plot against the New York synagogues and military base is one of several terrorist plots in the U.S. motivated by anti-Semitism and radical interpretations of Islam.  Such plots motivated by a hatred of Jews include the 2007 Fort Dix terror plot, the 2006 bomb plot in Rockford, Illinois, the 2006 shooting in Seattle, the 2005 Los Angeles terror plot and the 2002 southern Florida bomb plot that targeted Jewish-owned businesses, the Israeli Consulate in Miami and Jewish community centers.

In addition, several terrorist plots in New York were also motivated by a hatred of Jews or Israel.  These include:

  • James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj plotted to bomb New York's Herald Square subway station in 2004 to show solidarity with the Palestinians because of their hatred of the "Zionists."

  • In July 1997, Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer plotted to blow up a subway station in Brooklyn in order to "kill as many Jews as possible."  He testified that he chose the Atlantic Avenue station as a target because there are "a lot of Jews who ride that train."

  • Ali Abu Kamal, a Palestinian man who went on a shooting spree atop the Empire State Building in 1997, carried a note in his pocket indicating the attack was meant to vent his anger at the U.S. for using Israel as an "instrument" against the Palestinian people.

  • In 1993, five Islamic extremists detonated a car bomb below Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City, killing 6 people and wounding more than 1,000 others. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the attack, first planned to bomb Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, but settled on the World Trade Center because "the majority of people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews," according to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a co-conspirator in the attack.

  • Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian cleric and alleged leader of the terrorist group Gama'a al-Islamiyya, plotted to bomb five major landmarks in New York in 1993, including the United Nations Headquarters, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and the FBI office in New York.  In addition, he plotted to attack New York's diamond district, an area largely populated by Jews, which according to one of his co-defendants would be like "hitting Israel itself."

  • In 1973, Khalid Al-Jawary plotted to blow up cars parked out of three Israeli targets in Manhattan to coincide with a scheduled visit to New York by then-Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir.  The targets included El Al air terminal at John F. Kennedy International airport, the First Israel Bank and Trust Company, and the Israel Discount Bank in New York City.
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