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Two N.J. Men Arrested in Connection With Somalia Jihad Plot

June 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM EDT
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JEFFREY BROWN: And we turn to the arrests once again of Americans linked to foreign terrorist groups.

They call themselves Al-Shabab, or the youth, a band of al-Qaida-linked jihadists who have waged a campaign of violence in Somalia.

At New York’s Kennedy Airport Saturday, two American citizens were arrested for allegedly trying to join Al-Shabab and attack Americans. And today, Mohamed Mahmood Alessa and Carlos Eduardo Almonte appeared in federal court. Neighbors in New Jersey were shocked to hear the news.

LORETTA TRAP, New Jersey: It’s scary because I went through 9/11. I was in tower two when the plane hit. So, it’s really scary that there’s possible terrorists living across the street from me.

JEFFREY BROWN: Officials say the two drew inspiration from radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the same man linked to Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born American citizen arrested for trying to set off a car bomb is Times Square, and to Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist accused of killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, last November.

Outside the courthouse today, the prosecuting attorney told reporters that the phenomenon of homegrown terrorism is a growing threat.

PAUL FISHMAN, U.S. attorney: You have seen this and a number of other cases in which people who are in the United States are alleged to have become radicalized, to use the word that somebody just used a moment ago, and have decided that what they would like to do is engage in violent activity either against Americans or against people overseas. And that’s obviously not something that the United States government thinks is appropriate or we’re going to put up with.

JEFFREY BROWN: In fact, the number of such cases has increased sharply and includes the group of five men from Northern Virginia arrested in Pakistan last December for plotting terror attacks and the 14 men from Minnesota charged last year with helping young Somali Americans join terror groups in East Africa.

The two men arrested this weekend had no training and were hoping to be embraced by radicals once they arrived in Somalia. They’re to be charged with conspiring to kill, maim and kidnap persons outside the U.S. and are scheduled to return to court for a bail hearing on Thursday.

Just last month, addressing some of the recent cases, President Obama added homegrown threats to his administration’s top national security priorities for the first time.