Two men suspected of plotting to attack a synagogue in New York City in the name of Jihad have been arrested in Manhattan.
Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohammad Mamdouh, 20, 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. Both men were living in Queens.
Ahmed Ferhani, a legal resident from Algeria, and Mohammad Mehdi Mamdouh, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Moroccan decent, targeted Jews to advance their radical ideological goals, according to authorities. During the undercover operation, Ferhani allegedly said that Muslims around the world are being treated like dogs. He also said that Palestinians are particularly victimized and allegedly expressed interest in traveling to Gaza to fight.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Ferhani planned to grow out his beard in order to look "more like a Jew" and enter a synagogue more easily. The plot was still in the planning stages and no specific targets had been selected.
Commissioner Kelly said one of the suspects also expressed interest in bombing the Empire State Building.
Ferhani, an aspiring fashion model who has been previously arrested on drug and weapons charges, was arrested in his car after he gave an undercover officer $100 as down payment for a grenade and guns. Mamdouh, who was standing nearby, was also arrested at that time. Both had been under surveillance for several months.
In addition to weapons charges, the men face terrorism and hate crime charges.
The plot is the latest post-9/11 incident in which American Muslim extremists fueled by hatred of Jews and Israel have been arrested on terror charges. It is also the latest plot in New York motivated, in part, by hatred of Jews and Israel:
- In 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 the United States of America."
- In 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 in Newburgh, 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 the Bronx 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.
- In 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.
- In 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 the U.S. for its diplomatic relationship with Israel. 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.
- In August 2004, American citizen James Elshafay and another man plotted to bomb New York's Herald Square subway 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.
Several incidents in New York prior to the 9/11 attacks that were partially motivated by anti-Semitism were planned or carried out primarily by foreign nationals:
- In 1997, Palestinian Ali Abu Kamal engaged in a shooting spree atop the Empire State Building, killing one person and injuring several others before killing himself. Kamal reportedly carried a note in his pocket indicating that the attack was meant to vent his anger at the U.S. for using Israel as an "instrument" against the Palestinian people.
- In 1994, Rashid Baz, a Lebanese cab driver, opened fire at a van carrying 15 Hasidic students on the Brooklyn Bridge, killing a 16-year-old boy. After his arrest, authorities found anti-Jewish literature in Baza's house.
- In 1993, a car bombing at Tower One of the World Trade Center in New York City killed six people and wounded more than 1,000 others. Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the attack, first planned to bomb Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn but settled on the World Trade Center because "the majority of people who work in the World Trade Center are Jews," according to Abdul Rahman Yasin, a co-conspirator in the attack.
In 1993, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an Egyptian cleric and alleged leader of the terrorist group Gama'a al-Islamiyya, led a plot to bomb five major landmarks in New York, including the United Nations Headquarters, the Lincoln Tunnel, the Holland Tunnel, the George Washington Bridge and the FBI office. He also plotted to attack New York's diamond district, an area largely populated by Jewish businessmen, which, according to one of his co-defendants, would be like "hitting Israel itself."