New York Airport terror Plot 'One Of The Most Chilling Imaginable'

First On WNBC.com

Federal authorities say they foiled an alleged plot by a retired airport worker, a former Guyanese Parliament member and other Muslim extremists to plant explosives on jet fuel arteries at John F. Kennedy International Airport, triggering massive casualties and economic havoc.

Three men were arrested and a fourth sought in Trinidad for reportedly hatching the brazen scheme that they boasted would be worse than 9/11 and put "the whole country in mourning," authorities said.

Slideshow: JFK Terror Plot 

New Channel 4's Jonathan Dienst broke news Saturday morning of the arrests in the potentially dangerous plot that law enforcement sources stressed was in the planning stages and never posed an actual threat to New Yorkers.

The FBI and other agencies said they had been monitoring the suspects for more than a year with the help of an informant, a convicted drug dealer, who had infiltrated their ranks, traveled with them to Guyana and Trinidad and secretly recorded their conversations.

Authorities said they decided to end their surveillance and arrest the men over concerns that at least one of the plotters was about to flee.

U.S. Department Of Justice Complaint 

"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable," said U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf, calling it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

Terror Plot News Conference

 

U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf called it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."

Team Coverage: JFK Terror Plot 

Agents from the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task force arrested the retired airport cargo worker, 63-year-old Russell Defreitas, Friday night in Brooklyn. Also known as Mohammed, he is an American citizen living in Brooklyn. Two others suspects were being held in Trinidad: Abdul Kadir, an imam in Guyana who had served in their parliament and was mayor of the town of Linden, Guyana; and Trinidad citizen Kareem Ibrahim. The suspect on the loose is Abdel Nur, a Guyanese citizen.

Survey: How Much Does This Terror Plot Concern You? 

Defreitas was reportedly tape recorded boasting that the symbolism of JFK airport, named for the beloved slain president, made it an ideal terrorism target.

"Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States,'' he allegedly said. "To hit John F. Kennedy, wow... They love John F. Kennedy ike he's the man... If you hit that, the whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."

With 1,000 flights at day and a huge gateway for cargo, Defreitas reportedly said an attack there could "destroy the economy of America for some time if it falls into the right hands," according to authorities.

BREAKING NEWS: Terror Plot Thwarted At Kennedy Airport 

Police say the men never got their hands on explosives or funding and lacked the technical expertise to attack JFK airport's fuel tanks and underground pipeline. However according to the criminal complaint, they were trying to recruit a radical Muslim organization based in Trinidad, Jamaat al Muslimeen (JAM), the group behind a bloody 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad that killed 24 people. In six days of rioting, JAM members failed to take over the country in 1990 but had stormed the Parliament building and took the prime minister and cabinet hostage. Suspects Hadir and Nur were also longtime associates of JAM, said the complaint.

Law enforcement sources say they are investigating whether the men had ties to suspected terrorist Adnan G. El Shukri Jumah, an operative believed to have helped target locations for attacks in New York and elsewhere.

Brief Clip From JFK Terror News Conference 

New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said the suspects in the airport plot also used the Internet as a resource.

Defreitas and the informant conducted drive by surveillance at the airport four times in January 2007, looking at gas stations and fuel tanks there as possible targets, with Defreitas videotaping locations as the informant drove, the complaint said.

In their conversations, the suspects called the plot "the chicken hatchery" or "chicken farm," code-names coined by Kadir.

Wearing a calf length olive tunic and matching pants, Defreitas sported a long grey beard and looked drawn as he appeared in Brooklyn Federal Court Saturday but entered no plea.

“He is the self-proclaimed brainchild of an elaborate plot to blow up J.F.K. airport,” Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Knox said. “His stated goal was to kill as many people as possible."

Mr. Defreitas' court-appointed lawyer, Andrew Carter, asked for a postponement of the bail argument saying, "There is more to this story." Federal Magistrate Judge Kiyo Matsumoto scheduled the bail hearing for Wednesday afternoon.


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