Four Americans were arrested late Wednesday on charges of plotting to attack a Jewish synagogue and US Warplanes based at a New York military base. According to court documents, the four plotted to attack the base with surface-to-air guided missiles, and attack a New York synagogue. Governor David Paterson said that the men were of Arab and Haitian descent, but all are US citizens; it is alleged that the men are all Muslims – one born, and three who converted to Islam in prison. The four were tracked for a year, and arrested shortly after planting a 37-pound mock explosive device in the truck of a car outside the Riverdale Temple, and two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center. Police blocked their escape, and apprehended the suspects. Police commissioner Raymond Kelly spoke at a news conference, saying: “They stated that they wanted to commit jihad… They were disturbed about what happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed.” Kelly said that he believed that the men knew each other in prison. Kelly also added that the four men were likely not aided by terror groups.
Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, issued a statement praising law enforcers “for their efforts in helping to prevent any harm to either Jewish institutions or to our nation’s military… We repeat the American Muslim community’s repudiation of bias-motivated crimes and of anyone who would falsely claim religious justification for violent actions,” the statement said. US lawmakers joined rabbis and imams at a special ceremony on Friday morning at the Riverdale Temple. Judy Lewis, who serves as the congregation’s rabbi, said that it was difficult to understand why the temple, whose membership totals just 200 families, was picked as a terrorist target. With a touch of irony, Lewis added that the congregants primarily held left-wing political views.
This news event poses many questions when it comes to terror and security investigations that have levels of Islamic overtones or undertones. Police seem to have concluded that the suspects in this New York event do not have ties and were not aided by terror groups, but largely acted on their own, with their own connections. This story thus highlights that small, cooperative groups may create, define, and act upon their own attack motivations, apart from major terror networks. It also points to the sense of community that many Muslims feel (in different levels and ways) to macro events going on in Iraq, Afghanistan, and otherwise, and false imposed responsibility that may reside in the minds of such persons – i.e., an attack on a predominantly “liberal” synagogue.