The four men, three Americans and one of Haitian descent,
were arrested after planting what they thought were bombs at the Riverdale
Temple and the nearby Riverdale Jewish Center in the Bronx, officials told the
Associated Press. The bombs were actually fake, supplied to the men by a
government informant as part of a year-long sting conducted by the Federal
Bureau of Investigation.
James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre
Payen, all of Newburgh, N.Y., were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of
mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use
anti-aircraft missiles, the U.S. attorney’s office said.
The men, three of whom converted to Islam while in prison,
reportedly wanted to avenge the deaths of Muslims in U.S. military operations
in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to the Financial Times.
As part of the plot, the men also intended to fire Stinger
missiles at military aircraft at a military base located at Stewart
“This latest attempt to attack our freedoms shows that
the homeland security threats against New York City are sadly all too real and
underscores why we must remain vigilant in our efforts to prevent terrorism,”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a statement.
The suspects do not appear to be linked to any known terror
organizations. But the informant who supplied them with the fake explosives
told them he was involved with the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed, a group on
the U.S. terror list that seeks to overthrow Indian rule in Kashmir.
“If there can be any good news from this terror scare
it’s that this group was relatively unsophisticated, penetrated early, and not
connected to another terrorist group,” said Sen. Church Schumer, D-N.Y.
“This incident shows that we must always be vigilant against terrorism,
foreign or domestic.”
At a Thursday court hearing for three of the suspects in
White Plains, N.Y., Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said the defendants
were “eager to bring death to Jews.” He quoted one as saying: “I
would like to get a synagogue.”
Shackles prevented the suspects from raising their hands
while swearing to tell the truth.
Defense lawyers did not seek bail.
The fourth man is expected to appear in court later Thursday.