Federal investigators say they halted a proposed Islamic terrorist ring plotting to blow up buildings, pipelines, and fuel tanks at the landmark John F. Kennedy International Airport, one of the nation's busiest airports, this weekend. A U.S. citizen and two alleged accomplices were arrested. A fourth accomplice is currently believed to be in Trinidad.
Alarmingly, Russell Defreitas, 63, believed to be the American mastermind behind the proposed terrorist attack plot, is a retired JFK cargo worker, who knew intimate details of the airport's functions.
"Defreitas was driving this," said a U.S. federal law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. "But he was trying to hook up with some heavy-hitters who had connections for backing and financing."
Officials state that the crippling of the United States' economic system and the inducement of psychological fear across the nation's population was the intended goal of the scheme.
Authorities added that while the event was in the early stages of preparations and that a definitive plan for acquiring explosives or how to access tanks and pipelines had yet to be developed, the suspects had been under government surveillance since Jan. 2006, during which time they managed to acquire detailed surveillance of the airport, made repeated overseas trips, and sought help from a radical Islamic organization in Trinidad.
"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is unthinkable," says U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf, who represents the Eastern District of New York, at a Saturday afternoon news conference in Manhattan to announce the arrests.
The case is the latest in a series of alleged domestic terrorist threats involving Muslims residing legally in the U.S., including a case last month at the Ft. Dix Army base in New Jersey.
It was due to the unexpected arrest of one of the main suspects, Abdul Kadir, a former Guyanese mayor, and parliament member, that prompted U.S authorities to move rapidly on the investigation.
"We had to move real fast after the Trinidadians arrested Kadir," the U.S. federal law enforcement official said. The official did not disclose why Kadir was arrested in Trinidad but said U.S. officials feared the arrest would prompt the other suspects to flee, and as such they made their move to break up the terrorist plot and ring.
Defreitas was arrested a short time later, as was Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim. The suspect at large is Abdel Nur of Guyana. The United States is seeking the extradition of Kadir and Ibrahim. All four men could face life in prison if convicted.