Current News


6 Men Arrested in a Terror Plot Against Fort Dix

Published: May 9, 2007

CAMDEN, N.J., May 8 — Six Muslim men from New Jersey and Philadelphia were charged Tuesday with plotting to attack Fort Dix with automatic weapons and possibly even rocket-propelled grenades, vowing in taped conversations “to kill as many soldiers as possible,” federal authorities said.

The arrests came after a 15-month investigation during which the F.B.I. and two informers who had infiltrated the group taped them training with automatic weapons in rural Pennsylvania, conducting surveillance of military bases in the Northeast, watching videos of Osama bin Laden and the 9/11 hijackers and trying to buy AK-47 assault rifles.

The authorities described the suspects as Islamic extremists and said they represented the newest breed of threat: loosely organized domestic militants unconnected to — but inspired by — Al Qaeda or other international terror groups.

But the criminal complaint that details the plot describes an effort that was alternately ambitious and clumsy, with the men at turns declaring themselves eager to sacrifice their lives in the name of Allah and worrying about getting arrested or deported for buying weapons or possessing a map of a military base.

The suspects include three ethnic Albanian brothers who entered the United States illegally, part of a family that has lived for years in Cherry Hill, N.J., where they attended public schools and relatives ran a roofing business and a pizzeria. They were joined by their brother-in-law, who was born in Jordan and is a United States citizen, and two other legal United states residents: an ethnic Albanian from the former Yugoslavia, and a Turk who lived in Philadelphia.

The men, ages 22 to 28, held jobs ranging from roofer to cabdriver to pizza deliveryman, and had no clear motivation other than their stated desire to kill United States soldiers in the name of Islam. They considered a variety of targets, including the annual Army-Navy football game and warships docked in the Port of Philadelphia, but ultimately dismissed Dover Air Force Base in Delaware as having too much security and picked Fort Dix largely because one of their fathers owned a restaurant nearby that delivered to the base.

The authorities first caught up with the men in January 2006, when personnel at a video store alerted the authorities after the suspects requested that he transfer onto a DVD a videotape of the group shouting about jihad as they fired assault weapons at a range in the Pocono Mountains.

“This is a new brand of terrorism where a small cell of people can bring enormous devastation,” Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey, said at an afternoon news conference at the courthouse here.

As the suspects were charged before a United States magistrate judge, Joel Schneider, prosecutors described a complicated operation that was marked by deadly weapons but also lacking in sophistication. The authorities said one of the men had been a sniper in Kosovo, and as they sought to amass the weapons they intended to use in the attack, members of the cell were training with automatic rifles at a shooting range in Gouldsboro, Pa.

“When it comes to defending your religion, when someone is trying to attack your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad,” Eljvir Duka, 23, who also went by the nickname Elvis, is quoted as saying in the complaint. His elder brother Dritan Duka, who is 28 and known as Tony, said at another point that “as far as people, we have enough.”

“Seven people, and we are all crazy,” Dritan Duka said. “We can do a lot of damage with seven people.”

Federal agents said that it was unclear when the attack was to take place, because in the taped conversations the suspects said they were waiting for a fatwa, or authorization from an Islamic cleric. But prosecutors and officials said they had no doubt that the suspects were both capable and determined to strike.

“Today we dodged a bullet,” J. P. Weiss, special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Philadelphia office, said at the news conference. “In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets.”

Mr. Weiss added: “We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that.”

In Washington, senior law enforcement officials said that while the charges against those arrested were serious, there was no evidence that they were connected with any foreign terrorist organizations or broader conspiracy.

“They appear to be individuals who were actively perusing radical Web sites and began shooting weapons, doing surveillance and trying to get some advanced weaponry,” said one official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, because the matter was still under investigation.

It is the latest in a series of plots, targeting sites in the United States, that authorities said they have foiled. These included one last June in which seven arrests were made in Miami after the authorities described suspects talking about blowing up the Sears Tower in Chicago and the F.B.I.’s Miami headquarters. In June 2003, the authorities said they thwarted a plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge, and in 2002, six Yemeni-Americans from Lackawanna, N.Y., near Buffalo, were arrested and linked with Qaeda interests.

While the exact path of the Duka family’s immigration was unknown, thousands of ethnic Albanians and others fled to this country after the United States led NATO air attacks against Yugoslav forces in Kosovo and bombed Belgrade in 1999 to keep Slobodan Milosevic’s government from attacking ethnic Albanians and Muslims. Many were held first at Fort Dix, and settled in the area.

Five of the suspects, who were arrested in three raids on Monday night, were charged with conspiring to kill American military personnel, a crime punishable by life in prison. The sixth, Agron Abdullahu, 24, was charged with aiding and abetting the illegal weapons purchase, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years. The three Duka brothers — Dritan, Eljvir and Shain, 26 — were also charged with violating the federal law that prohibits illegal aliens from possessing weapons.

The criminal complaint describes the Dukas’ brother-in-law, Mohamad Shnewer, as the coordinator of the plot, determined to obtain the cache of weapons. He arranged the training sessions in Pennsylvania, the complaint says. “My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers,” Mr. Shnewer is quoted as saying in one taped conversation. “You hit four, five or six Humvees and light the whole place up and retreat completely without any losses.”

The men never managed to obtain rocket-propelled grenades, but they had substantial firepower, including handguns, an assault rifle and a semiautomatic assault weapon, the authorities said. They were arrested as they tried to buy, from an F.B.I. informer, four AK-47s and M-16s, which were inoperable. “They were at the point where they wanted the final piece of their plan, to obtain the final weaponry,” Mr. Christie said.

Cassie Herman, who lives in Blackwood, N.J., where the Duka family once owned a pizzeria, said she rented her 5,000-square-foot home in a gated community on Big Bass Lake to Eljvir Duka for a week in February, and to someone from the F.B.I. for a few days just before.

Kevin O’Brien, 36, who lives in the same community, said he had gone to bars twice with several of the men, who told him they were avid hunters. Mr. O’Brien said the men drank whiskey and beer and asked him about his stint in the Marines, trading stories of their own military training in the former Yugoslavia.

Tom Cornine, a bartender at the Gouldsboro Inn, recalled two of the men there on a February weekend, drinking Stoli on the rocks until they drained the bottle, then Absolut. “They drank more than the average man,” Mr. Cornine said.

For all the suspects’ talk of holy war and martyrdom, investigators said there is little indication that they were devout, or even practicing, Muslims. Leaders at nearby Muslim houses of worship said they had never seen the suspects and were troubled to learn they had tried to use faith as a justification for their plan.

“This is not what our religion teaches us,” said Zia Rahman, who helped found a mosque in nearby Voorhees. “These people claim to be Muslim, but I don’t know how they can be. Islam is a religion of peace, not of violence, and this goes against the grain of our religion.”

Reporting was contributed by Jack Begg, Nina Bernstein, Jill P. Capuzzo, David W. Chen, Alain Delaquérière, Andrea Elliott, Richard G. Jones, Neil A. Lewis, Michael Moss, Sabrina Pacifici, Nate Schweber, Robert Strauss and Ethan Wilensky-Lanford.



The Power Hour:
(7-10am CST)
···Listen Live

Listen FREE thru Global Star Satellite Feed






All logos and trademarks in this site are property of their respective owner.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. For more information go to:

Copyright © 2007. The Power Hour. All rights reserved.