Five radical Islamists -- three of them brothers -- have been arrested and charged with plotting to kill as many soldiers as possible in an armed assault at the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey, according to agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A sixth defendant is charged with aiding and abetting the illegal possession of firearms by three of the members of the group.
The arrests occurred last night in Cherry Hill as two of the defendants were meeting a confidential government witness to purchase three AK-47 automatic machine guns and four semi-automatic M-16s to be used in an attack they had been planning from at least January 2006, according to criminal Complaints unsealed this morning.
Some members of the group allegedly conducted surveillance at Fort Dix and also at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia. The co-conspirators obtained a detailed map of Fort Dix, where they said they hoped to use assault rifles and rocket propelled grenades to kill as many soldiers as possible.
They also did small-arms training at a shooting range in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and distributed training videos amongst themselves that included depictions of American soldiers being killed and known foreign Islamic radicals urging jihad against the United States.
"The individuals arrested today present an alarming example of the need to maintain a vigilant stance towards those who would do us harm," said Julie Myers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Assistant Secretary. "This case is an excellent example of how ICE immigration investigative authorities are making the country safer."
"The actions of these defendants posed a real threat to the safety and security of New Jersey citizens. We will remain steadfast in our focus on protecting New Jersey from the terrorist threat among us whether that threat is against everyday citizens or our men and women in uniform."
"This case underscores the need for continued vigilance against threats within our borders," said Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. "While these defendants are not charged with being members of an international terrorism organization, their involvement in weapons training, operational surveillance and discussions about killing American military personnel warranted a strong law enforcement response."
The five defendants are each charged with conspiracy to murder members of the uniformed services, which carries a maximum statutory penalty of imprisonment for any term of years or for life. All six defendants were to appear this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joel Schneider in federal court in Camden, where the government would be seeking their detention without bail.
The investigation began on Jan. 31, 2006, after the FBI received a video recording showing the six individuals charged in the Complaint and four other men firing assault weapons in militia-like style at a Poconos shooting range. The recording depicted them calling for holy war (jihad) and shouting "God is great" in Arabic. The recording was recovered after one of the plotters took the videotape to a retail establishment seeking to have it converted into a DVD. According to the Complaint, the DVD was to be distributed and used as a training tool.
Alarmed by what they had seen on the videotape, store employees contacted the FBI. After the recording was turned over to the FBI, agents used a confidential witness (CW) to infiltrate the group. The CW convinced the plotters that he had the same jihadist goals and that he could get them weaponry needed to carry out the assault at Fort Dix.
Two of the defendants -- Dritan Duka and Shain Duka -- were arrested at a residence in Cherry Hill last night as they arrived to purchase the AK-47s and M-16s as previously arranged with the CW. (The weapons provided by the FBI for the controlled purchase were inoperable.) Eljvir Duka was arrested at Dritan Duka's residence; the other three at their respective residences. All of the arrests and court-authorized searches of the residences were conducted beginning about 9 p.m. last night. The defendants are as follows:
Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, of Cherry Hill. He was born in Jordan, is a U.S. citizen and is employed as a taxicab driver in Philadelphia.
Eljvir Duka, 23, of Cherry Hill, a.k.a. "Elvis Duka," a.k.a. "Sulayman," was born in the former Yugoslavia. Duka is illegally residing in the U.S. and operates businesses known as Qadr. Inc., Colonial Roofing and National Roofing, all of which list business addresses the same as his residence.
Dritan Duka, 28, of Cherry Hill, a.k.a. "Distan Duka," a.k.a. "Anthony Duka," a.k.a. "Tony Duka." He was born in the former Yugoslavia, is illegally residing in the U.S. and operates businesses known as Colonial Roofing and National Roofing, both which list business addresses at the residence of defendants Eljvir Duka and Shain Duka. (All of the Dukas charged are brothers).
Shain Duka, 26, of the same address as Eljvir Duka in Cherry Hill, a.k.a. "Shaheen," was born in the former Yugoslavia. Shain Duka is illegally residing in the U.S. and operates businesses known as Colonial Roofing and National Roofing, both which list business addresses the same as his residence.
Serdar Tatar, 23, of Philadelphia, was born in Turkey. Tatar is legally residing in the U.S. His last know employment was at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Philadelphia.
Agron Abdullahu, 24, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, was born in the former Yugoslavia. Abdullahu is legally residing in the U.S. and is employed at a Shop-Rite Supermarket.
The Duka brothers and Abdullahu are ethnic Albanians born in the former Yugoslavia. Abdullahu is charged only with aiding and abetting the Duka brothers' illegal possession of weapons, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison. Each of the Duka brothers are also charged with being illegal aliens in possession of firearms, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The CW, following his infiltration of the Duka Organization, recorded numerous conversations with the defendants, in which they discussed tactics, surveillance and plans for attacking U.S. military bases and killing soldiers, radical theology and hatred of America and support of jihad.
On Aug. 11, 2006, for example, Shnewer was recorded by the CW as Shnewer described his and the group's intentions in an attack at Ft. Dix: "My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers.... This is exactly what we are looking for. You hit four, five or six Humvees and light the whole place [up] and retreat completely without any losses."
Repeatedly, Shnewer was recorded saying that he knew what they were doing was illegal and that their activities had to be hidden. In one instance, Shnewer allegedly showed a DVD from his computer to the CW, telling the CW it had to be done in private because, "It's about something that can lead to prison." The DVD depicted various jihadist images while a narrator recruits the observer to the jihadist movement.
Shnewer at one point gave his laptop computer to the CW with the instruction that he look at certain video files, according to the Complaint. (The FBI copied the hard drive before it was returned to Shnewer.) Among them, according to the Complaint, was a file that appeared to depict the last will and testaments of two of the September 11 hijackers and another with images of Osama Bin Laden and other Islamic extremists calling the viewer to join the jihadist movement.
Officials credited the Special Agents of the FBI's Philadelphia Division and the FBI South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge J.P. Weis, in Philadelphia, for investigation of the case.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.