NEW YORK — A 65-year-old imam from Trinidad was convicted Thursday by a federal jury of participating in a failed plot to blow up jet fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a scheme that authorities said was meant to outdo the Sept. 11 attacks and avenge perceived U.S. oppression of Muslims around the world.
Kareem Ibrahim was convicted of five conspiracy counts after jury deliberations that spanned two days. The mastermind of the operation, Russell Defreitas, a former cargo handler, and co-conspirator Abdul Kadir, an engineer and former member of Guyana’s parliament, are serving life in prison after their convictions on conspiracy charges.
A fourth man, Abdel Nur, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years.
Leaders of local and national groups gathered at the site of the planned center, two blocks from ground zero, and declared not only that the planners had a constitutional right to build it, but also that they would help the project move forward in the face of heated opposition. They insisted that, as a matter of principle, the center should not budge from its planned site.
The Muslim leaders called on elected officials “to join their colleagues in denouncing and rejecting inflammatory rhetoric that endangers the lives of Muslim Americans.”
The proposed Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan got its strongest vote of confidence yet from major Muslim leaders on Monday, after months of behind-the-scenes grumbling that they were not properly consulted on the project, and a day’s worth of intense and painful conversations at a hotel near Kennedy International Airport.
The alleged terror plot against John F. Kennedy International Airport has cast a spotlight on radical Muslim elements in the Caribbean, including a group that launched the hemisphere’s only Islamic revolt and a former Florida man wanted by the FBI. In 1990, Yasin Abu Bakr, a Muslim leader on the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, led a six-day coup attempt against the government with his 113-member Jamaat Al Muslimeen organization. The prime minister was shot and wounded and 24 others killed. In an indictment unveiled in New York on Saturday, the U.S. government accused the four men of conspiring to plant explosives at the airport and of trying to contact Abu Bakr personally to seek his support. Two of them failed, but one of them claimed to have talked to Abu Bakr, the indictment said. Three of the men are natives of Guyana and one is from Trinidad. Two of the men were arrested last week in Trinidad and police are searching for a third suspect there. The fourth man was arrested in Brooklyn on Friday night. (…) Muslims, mostly Sunnis, make up about 9 percent of Guyana’s population of about 770,000. Though Guyana has not had the same level of activity as Trinidad, the FBI has been looking for Adnan Gulshair Muhammad el Shukrijumah, a former Broward County resident and one of the few alleged al-Qaida members known to have been in Latin America – in his case, Trinidad, Guyana and Panama. The Saudi Arabia-born el Shukrijumah lived with his parents in Miramar, Fla., until four months before the Sept. 11 attacks. An FBI statement at the time said he was “possibly involved with al-Qaida terrorist activities and, if true, poses a serious threat.”