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Four Charged With Plotting To Blow Up U.S. Airport

JFK Airport in New York (file photo) (AFP) June 3, 2007 -- U.S. authorities have charged four people in connection with an alleged Islamic terrorist plot to blow up John F. Kennedy airport in New York.

Officials say the plot allegedly involved blowing up the airport's jet-fuel tanks and part of a pipeline from New Jersey.

Three of the suspects have been arrested, including a former airline cargo worker at the airport and a former member of parliament in the Caribbean nation of Guyana.

Russell Defreitas, a Guyanese native and naturalized U.S. citizen, was arrested in New York while the arrest of the two others, Guyanese citizen Abdul Kadir and Trinidadian Kareem Ibrahim, occurred in Trinidad.

One of the suspects remains a fugitive. He has been identified as Abdel Nur, also a Guyanese national.

Authorities said Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of a Trinidadian radical Muslim group, Jamaat al-Muslimeen, which launched an unsuccessful coup attempt in Trinidad in 1990.

'Threat Fully Contained'

U.S. justice officials say the men were plotting to blow up buildings, fuel tanks, and a jet-fuel pipeline that runs through several residential neighborhoods. Authorities say the alleged plot was foiled well before it could be carried out.

The plot was brought to light when former airport employee Defreitas recruited an FBI informant to help him in the plan. They say the informant taped some of the conversations he had with Defreitas.

The suspects had reportedly conducted surveillance of the airport, and obtained satellite images of it from the Internet.

Mark Mershon, assistant director in charge of the FBI's New York field office, said the alleged plot never got beyond the planning stages and there was no threat to air safety or to the public.

"One clear signature of this cell was its persistence," Mershon said. "They consistently worked to refine their plot; they took extensive measures to seek expert advice, finances, and explosives. The bottom line is that we believe that this threat has been fully contained."

U.S. officials say the men were driven by their hatred toward the United States. In an indictment charging the four men, one of them is quoted as saying the foiled plot would "cause greater destruction than in the September 11 attacks."

Bigger Than 9/11?

U.S. attorney Roslynn Mauskopf described the plot as "one of the most chilling imaginable." She said that had the plot been carried out, it would have resulted in immeasurable deaths and destruction.

"I think one particularly telling insight into the motive for these people are some of the words out of the mouth of Russell Defreitas," Mauskopf said. "In talking about the plot, he says: 'Any time you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States. To hit John F. Kennedy, wow...they love John F. Kennedy like he's the man...if you hit that, this whole country will be mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."

Several experts interviewed by "The New York Times" have suggested that the plot was probably not feasible.

The case is the latest in a series of alleged plots believed to have been thwarted in the United States since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Six were arrested last month on charges of plotting to attack Fort Dix, a U.S. Army training center in New Jersey.

Last year, seven men were arrested and charged in an alleged plot to destroy the Sears Tower in Chicago, which is the tallest building in the United States.

(compiled from agency reports)

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