New York Synagogue Bomb Plot Suspect Pleads Guilty

  • December 5, 2012


Ahmed Ferhani

Update: On March 15, 2013, Ferhani was sentenced to 10 years in prison. On April 26, Ferhani's  coconspirator, Mohammad Mamdouh was sentenced to 5 years in prison.

Ahmed Ferhani, a legal U.S. resident from Algeria, pleaded guilty yesterday to terrorism charges stemming from his role in a plot to attack a New York City synagogue. The foiled plot was the latest is a series of post-9/11 terror plots motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel.

Ferhani, 27, and his alleged coconspirator Mohammad Mamdouh, 21, were arrested on May 11, 2011, after attempting to purchase weapons, including guns and a hand grenade, from an undercover officer during a sting operation.

Reading a prepared statement in Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday, Ferhani said, “I repeatedly discussed…my anger towards Jews based on what I believed and perceived to be their mistreatment of Muslims throughout the world. I intended to create chaos and send a message of intimidation and coercion to the Jewish population of New York City, warning them to stop mistreating Muslims.”

As part of his plea deal, Ferhani pleaded guilty to 10 terror-related and hate crime charges and is scheduled to be sentenced next month.

During the undercover operation, Ferhani allegedly said that Palestinians are particularly victimized and allegedly expressed interest in traveling to Gaza to fight. At the time of the arrest, New York Police Commissioner Kelly said Ferhani planned to grow out his beard in order to look "more like a Jew" and enter a synagogue more easily.

Other terror plots in New York in recent years have been similarly motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel, including:

September 2009: Zarein Ahmedzay, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Afghanistan, and two other New Yorkers were arrested for plotting to detonate homemade explosives on New York City subway lines during the days following the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. While entering his guilty plea a year later, Ahmedzay stated that "the real enemies of this country are the ones destroying this country from within" and condemned "a special group of Zionist Jews" who want to "establish a permanent shadow government in theUnited States of America."

May 2009: Four Muslim converts, three American and one Haitian, were arrested for an alleged plot to attack two synagogues in the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base inNewburgh,New York. James Cromitie, the apparent leader of the group, and the other three men allegedly began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish Community Center in theBronx in April 2009. "These were people who were eager to bring death to Jews," Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder said at a court hearing the day after the arrests. The men were subsequently sentenced to 25 years in prison.

November 2008: American citizen Bryant Neal Vinas was arrested for providing information about New York City transit systems to Al Qaeda for potential terrorist attacks and for firing rockets at an American military base in Afghanistan. Vinas, who was angry with the U.S. government for its support of Israel, was also involved with the Islamic Thinkers Society, a New York-based anti-Semitic extremist group that calls for the destruction of the state of Israel. He also met with the former leader of Revolution Muslim, another New York-based anti-Semitic organization that justifies terrorist attacks and other forms of violence against non-Muslims. Vinas subsequently pleaded guilty to all three charges against him.

February 2007: Russell Defreitas, a naturalized U.S.citizen from Guyana, and three other men were arrested for plotting to attack New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. The men plotted the attack in part because they wanted to take revenge on theU.S. for its diplomatic relationship withIsrael. Defreitas later told an informant that Muslims "incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass," and that he "wanted to do something to get those bastards," according to court documents. Defreitas also suggested targeting a nearby Jewish school or a predominately Jewish neighborhood. Defreitas was subsequently sentenced to life in prison.

August 2004: American citizen James Elshafay and another man plotted to bombNew York'sHerald Squaresubway station. In conversations secretly recorded by an undercover informant, Elshafay talked about his hatred of "Zionists" and his solidarity with the Palestinians, according to court documents. The men also watched terrorist videos and shared books that claimed the Jews were conspiring to take over the world's economy. Elshafay was subsequently sentenced to 30 years in prison.