Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sadly all too real

This article from the 22 May Guardian International Edition (reproduced below) also appeared on p24 of the UK Grauniad on 22 May. But it isn't on, which has two other versions - with less highly prejudicial headlines - both from agencies and posted the day before.

The missing version is actually from a real live Guardian reporter in NYC it appears, who hints at the propaganda value of the 'plot': the group was arrested amid an extraordinary display of police firepower including the use of an 18-wheel armoured truck; refers to the apparently naive nature of the conspiracy; and reports that there was no evidence they were linked to a wider network of jihadists.

On the other hand, the subtitle Police informant gave terror gang dud weapons fails to mention that the FBI supplied the weapons. I'm not suggesting there is any particular significance in any of this - I mention it mostly just to record what was actually printed.

But on the subject of the actual events: call me a swivel-eyed hairy-palmed conspiracy theorist (alternatively, a stater of the blindingly obvious), but it rather seems the FBI may (inadvertently, overzealously...choose your adverb) have acted as agents provocateurs. Without their intervention, would the four really now be facing charges of 'conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States' and 'conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles'? (Thanks to Tom McElroy of AP for actually bothering to report what the charges were.) It certainly makes a nice spectacle and keeps the propaganda campaign previously known as the War on Terror ticking over nicely.

[Update: now seen this detailed account, which I'd say confirms my strong suspicions and resolves the indeterminacy in the state of my palms: they are smooth after all.] I can't help thinking on this occasion, as I do probably about once a fortnight or so, of 'accomplished terrorist' Dhiren Barot aka the Doodle Bomber, whose remaining decades in Belmarsh look likely to be punctuated only by the occasional scalding.

22 May 2009

The Guardian International Edition
Ed Pilkington, New York

FBI foils jihadist bomb attacks on New York
Police informant gave terror gang dud weapons
Fireball plan shows threat to city a reality, says mayor

Four self-styled jihadists from New York planned to shock America by bombing two synagogues and bringing down a military plane in an attack conceived as revenge for the deaths of Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan, police said yesterday.

Photograph: Justin Kahn/WireImage The four men intended to carry out the attacks on Wednesday evening, planting what they thought were car bombs outside two Bronx synagogues and planning to detonate the devices at the same time as they shot down a plane with an antiaircraft missile.

But the group was arrested amid an extraordinary display of police firepower including the use of an 18-wheel armoured truck used to block the suspects’ vehicle.
New York’s police chief and the city’s mayor warned yesterday that the arrests underlined the continuing security threats against the city since 9/11. But the emerging details of the plot also illuminated the ability of federal authorities to infiltrate and track nascent terrorist activities.

According to the federal case against the men, the plot began to take shape as early as June last year. James Cromitie, a petty criminal with numerous convictions who is identified as the ringleader, is alleged to have begun making inquiries about buying explosives through a mosque in Newburgh, a town about 60 miles north of New York City where he lived. He said he was upset about the war in Afghanistan, as his father was an Afghan immigrant to the US. Cromitie said he wanted to do “something to America”, lamenting that “the best target was already hit” in an apparent reference to the World Trade Centre.

Even at that early stage the police were aware of his intentions. An informant posing as a member of an extreme Pakistani group was in contact with Cromitie at the mosque and remained closely associated with him, using hidden audio and video equipment to record conversations over the following 11 months.

In October, the charges find, Cromitie began discussions with his conspirators, whom he had met in prison. Two of the three are US citizens and the third Haitian; they are all converts to Islam.

The informant tracked the meetings of the four men, and arranged, with FBI help, to supply them with 17kg (37lbs) of C-4 plastic explosives and a Stinger antiaircraft missile. The men were unaware that all the weaponry, including the explosives formed into a bomb-like object by FBI agents, was dud and harmless.

Last month, the charges allege, the men began staking out the synagogues – the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Centre. They also surveyed military aircraft at Stewart air national guard base in Newburgh. The plotters allegedly intended to create a “fireball that would make the country gasp”.

There was no evidence they were linked to a wider network of jihadists. “The group was relatively unsophisticated … and not connected to any outside group,” said Charles Schumer, one of New York state’s two senators.

Despite the apparently naive nature of the conspiracy, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, said the plot showed that threats against the city were “sadly all too real”.

Raymond Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, told a press conference outside the Riverdale Temple that the men had wanted to commit jihad. He quoted one of the four as saying: “If Jews were killed in this attack, that would be alright.”


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