Practice In The Poconos: U.S. Details How Men Prepared

Practice In The Poconos: U.S. Details How Men Prepared
May 9th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Practice In The Poconos: U.S. Details How Men Prepared

Practice In The Poconos: U.S. Details How Men Prepared
New York Times
May 9, 2007
By Alan Feuer
It was a terror plot that hinged, in no small part, upon a map snatched from a New Jersey pizzeria. The plotters honed their shooting skills on semiautomatics at the firing range, though they also spent time conducting what the authorities called “tactical training” by playing paintball in the woods.
They seemed to be prepared: with terror training tapes, with computerized ballistic simulations, even with what appeared to be a template of the last will and testament drawn up by two of the hijackers from Sept. 11. At the same time, one of the men worried aloud to a government informer: “I just want to be safe, brother. I got five kids, so I don’t want to go down.”
The narrative of a foiled terror plot spelled out in the federal complaint issued yesterday by officials in New Jersey is full of tiny moments that are clearly chilling yet undeniably strange. Certainly, the 27-page document describing a plot to kill soldiers at the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey stands out as one of the more detailed descriptions to emerge so early in a terrorism case during the last few years.
While the document paints a picture of a bloody-minded, though occasionally unsophisticated, plot, it is worth recalling that acts of terror — even deadly ones — have often included glaring strategic flaws in the past. One of the terrorists in the 1993 scheme to destroy the World Trade Center, in fact, returned to a rental office to claim his deposit for the truck that carried explosives into the complex’s garage.
The current case came to light in early 2006 when the suspects — four ethnic Albanians, three of them brothers; a Jordanian; and a Turk — asked their local video store to transfer their own improvised jihadist videotape to DVD and a representative of the store called the authorities. Within weeks, federal agents managed to infiltrate the group with an informer who recorded them with apparent ease — at home, in their cars and on the phone for more than a year.
The recorded conversations indicate that the suspects shifted between a deadly intent to kill and a fear of losing heart. They appear at times to bolster one another — “I’m in, honestly, I’m in,” one says — or to give one another pretexts to avoid the plot. One says they need a fatwa, or religious decree, before they actually proceed. Another unwittingly suggests that the informer take the lead in the attack since he is a former soldier and is thought to be more seasoned than the rest.
Throughout, however, there are anxieties about the law, resulting in what soon sounds like a plot within the plot. Fearing the informer is betraying them, one of the men confronts him. “I don’t know whether you’re F.B.I.,” he says. But the planning goes on, according to the complaint.
The plot began in earnest in late January 2006, the government says, after a video store owner from New Jersey approached the F.B.I., saying a man had recently given him a videotape to transfer to DVD. The tape showed 10 men in their early 20s shooting assault weapons at a firing range “in a militialike style while calling for jihad,” according to the complaint. The F.B.I. identified the men and opened an investigation.
As part of that investigation, agents dispatched the informer to befriend the men, and by March he had developed a relationship with one of them, Mohamad Shnewer, the complaint says. Mr. Shnewer showed the informer DVDs with “various jihadist images” and a voice-over that sought recruits to the “jihadist movement.” Another informer, who had also penetrated the group, was shown computer videos of attacks on American soldiers and noted that Mr. Shnewer smiled while he watched them.
Nonetheless, Mr. Shnewer asks the first informer, who had served with the Egyptian Army, to “help lead the attack,” the complaint says. As for money, Mr. Shnewer says that he has plenty: “I have been saving money for this plan for some time.”
In mid-August, the complaint says, Mr. Shnewer and the first informer drive to Fort Dix to conduct surveillance — an admittedly dangerous task. Mr. Shnewer counsels taking videos on a cellphone “as if you are talking,” adding that one can always delete the images if stopped by the police.
On the drive, Mr. Shnewer is recorded laying out the ambitious details of the plot: “You hit four, five, or six Humvees and light the whole place up,” the complaint quotes him as saying, “and retreat completely without any losses.”
By this point, the plot has deepened with additional surveillance trips and attempts to acquire rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, according to the complaint.
Yet apprehensions have already appeared: When the informer asks one suspect, Shain Duka, if he is “with them,” Mr. Duka says, “God willing, we will see.” Mr. Duka’s brother Eljvir is quoted as saying they need a fatwa before they can attack. And another suspect, Serdar Tatar, asserts he is “in” but cautions that they must take steps to ensure their families’ safety.
There are also lingering suspicions. In November, for example, trying to determine if the first informer is a plant, Mr. Tatar contacts the police in Philadelphia, according to the complaint, and tells a sergeant he has recently been approached by a man who “pressured him to acquire maps of Fort Dix.” In a remarkable turn, he tells the sergeant he is fearful that “the incident was terrorist-related.”
And yet the plot continues, the complaint says. “I’m going to do it,” Mr. Tatar tells the informer. “Know why? It doesn’t matter to me whether I get locked up.”
In the next few months, the men talk guns (somewhat oddly, they seem troubled by the thought of weapons that are fully automatic, noting they are, after all, illegal) and take shooting practice on state land in the Poconos, in Pennsylvania. Mr. Shnewer is quoted as saying the group missed an opportunity to attack the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia.
Much of the group’s attention seems focused on a map of Fort Dix taken from Mr. Tatar’s father’s pizzeria in Cookstown, N.J., near the Army base. At one point, the complaint says, Mr. Shnewer hides the map in his mother’s car.
On Feb. 2, 2007, while the suspects are in the Poconos, an uncanny coincidence takes place: two of the Duka brothers unexpectedly run into an undercover agent at a convenience store. The complaint says the agent has been secretly watching the firing range and that Eljvir Duka, believing him to be a fellow gun enthusiast, inquires rather casually where he might buy AK-47s and M-16s.
The group has rented a house in the mountains, the complaint says, and spends time watching videos, including one in which a United States marine gets his arm blown off, which prompts a burst of laughter. On the ride back to New Jersey, Mr. Shnewer is quoted as proposing a plan to attack two warships when they dock the next year in Philadelphia.
There is paintball training in February and March, with the third Duka brother, Dritan, saying, “They use this in the U.S. Army,” the complaint says.
At one point, the complaint says, the informer tells the group he knows a source who will sell them weapons but needs to remain anonymous. His list of guns includes an M-60 machine gun, a Sig Sauer pistol and a Smith & Wesson revolver.
Yet even as Dritan Duka reviews the list, his own words suggest he may not fully apprehend the gravity of what he plans to do.
“I just want to be safe, brother,” he tells the informer. “I got five kids, so I don’t want to go down. People catch me like they think I’m a terrorist.”

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