Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Terrorists are right here in NYC and plotting mayhem

Look close to home for terror Pros say maniacs are right here and plotting mayhem in the city
BY Thomas Zambito, NY DAILY NEWS
The Al-Farooq mosque

The Al-Farooq mosque in downtown Brooklyn was identified as an Al Qaeda funding source in 2004.

Syed Hashmi

Homegrown terrorists include the Brooklyn College grad Syed Hashmi...

Tarik Shah

...Bronx jazz musician Tarik Shah...

Shahwar Matin Siraj

...and Shahwar Matin Siraj.

The trail of terror leads into the city's very own backyard.

Neighborhoods in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx are spawning homegrown radicals, and some are plotting horrific acts to rival the 9/11 attacks, city and federal investigators say.

Like the recent plot to blow up fuel lines leading to Kennedy Airport, most have been thwarted before they get past the planning stage.

But cops and federal investigators say the motivation behind the plots reveals a troubling resentment against the U.S. heated by global events that have become rallying cries for jihad.

Statements from several of the suspects reveal plots inspired by the London train bombings or the abuses committed by U.S. soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, said Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

"It is kind of a simmering hatred that builds up, and it manifests itself in acting out," said Kelly, who has worked to expand the NYPD's worldwide intelligence-gathering abilities since 9/11. "You need a 360-degree perimeter. You have to work globally and look locally."

The head of the FBI's anti-terror efforts in New York says radical leaders exploit these events, with the help of the Internet, to increase their following.

"We find that even in this great city, events that happen abroad present a great recruiting tool for [terrorists] and they're very adept at playing it up," said Joe Demarest, special agent in charge of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a 500-member unit of federal, state and city investigators.

Arrests and prosecutions in the federal courts in Brooklyn and Manhattan over the past several years confirm the trend.

Shahwar Matin Siraj's failed plot to blow up the Herald Square subway station in 2003 was hatched after he saw photos of prisoners abused at Abu Ghraib. His lawyer said he felt a duty as a Muslim to respond.

Brooklyn College grad Syed Hashmi's anti-American fervor was stoked by exposure to al-Muhajiroun, a terror group whose leader voiced support for attacks in London and the U.S., those who know him say.

Hashmi, 27, was reared in Flushing but felt increasingly isolated by his devotion to an ancient culture that seemed at odds with the ideals of America, according to his friends.

Before his 2003 graduation, he invited an al-Muhajiroun speaker to the college's Flatbush campus.

"Hashmi lived here most of his life, and he didn't feel he was an American," said Azeem Khan, the assistant secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North Americans in Queens. "He wasn't afforded the opportunity to feel part of the community or have a greater relationship with the community or feel accepted."

Hashmi was extradited two weeks ago to face charges in Manhattan of conspiring to send money and military gear to Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. His lawyer says he may have been an outspoken political activist but he has never committed a crime.

Near the bustling intersection of Brooklyn's Atlantic and Flatbush Aves., a sign outside the Ahlul Bayt Islamic Library reads, "Islam is the Solution."

Across the way is Al-Farooq mosque, which the feds identified as an Al Qaeda funding source in 2004.

The mosque is not far from the former home of the House of Knowledge bookstore, where the feds say Moroccan-born owner Abdulrahman Farhane, 52, talked about raising money for jihadists with a man who was a government informer.

Farhane pleaded guilty to conspiring to send money overseas and recently was sentenced to 13 years in prison.

Recordings of Farhane led the FBI to a Bronx jazz musician, Tarik Shah, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to train Al Qaeda operatives in martial arts.

Shah's radical leanings were evident in 2000, when he and others tried to use a mosque in upstate Poughkeepsie to rally members for a jihad. An armed confrontation with the leader of the mosque, Anwar Clifton Kearney, led Shah to look elsewhere.

Kearney said he was busy trying to help a struggling flock support themselves, but Shah had something else in mind.

"They were talking about jihad, and we can't even pay our rent," Kearney testified recently.

Aided by informers, law enforcement is trying to prevent plots from going beyond the planning stage.

"We try to squeeze as much intelligence out of each of these cases as we can," Demarest says. "We just can't miss anything."

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