Judge: JFK Plot Would Have Caused Unimaginable Devastation
NEW YORK â€” A former member of Guyana's parliament was sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for plotting to blow up fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport after insisting he was wrongly convicted.
"At no time did I have any intention or believe in bringing any harm to the people of this country by the terrorist acts I happened to be identified with," Abdul Kadir told a judge in federal court in Brooklyn.
U.S. District Court Judge Dora Irizarry responded that there was ample evidence Kadir was a key player in "a plan that would have caused devastation unimaginable."
Kadir and Russell Defreitas, a former JFK cargo handler, were arrested and charged with multiple counts of conspiracy in 2007 after an informant infiltrated the plot and recorded them discussing it.
At a trial where Kadir and Defreitas were convicted earlier this year, prosecutors alleged the pair wanted to kill thousands of people and cripple the American economy by using explosives to blow up the fuel tanks and the underground pipelines that run through an adjacent Queens neighborhood. The said they sought the help of militant Muslims, including an al-Qaida operative, in Guyana.
The government relied heavily on the informant's secret recordings, which captured Defreitas bragging about his knowledge of Kennedy Airport and its vulnerabilities.
"For years, I've been watching them," he said of the fuel tanks while on a reconnaissance mission with the informant.
In other tapes, Defreitas ranted about punishing the United States with an attack that would "dwarf 9/11."
Kadir testified in his own defense, denying he was a militant Muslim who spied for Iran for years before joining the JFK scheme. He told jurors that he warned the plotters: "Islam does not support aggression or killing innocent people."
As part of the plot, Defreitas and the informant traveled to Guyana to try to meet with Kadir and show him homemade videotapes of the airport's so-called fuel farms. The plotters also discussed reaching out to Adnam Shukrijumah, an al-Qaida member and explosives expert who was believed to be hiding out in the Caribbean at the time.
Shukrijumah, an FBI most-wanted terrorist, has been indicted on federal charges he was involved in a failed plot to attack the New York City subway system with suicide bombers.
Sentencing for DeFreitas is set for Jan. 21.
A dozen men were arrested in England early Monday as fears of a terrorist attack during the holidays grows in Europe.
The suspected extremists were rounded up in a series of raids in three cities throughout the United Kingdom, including London, Stoke-on-Trent in central England, and Cardiff, Wales.
"The operation is in its early stages so we are unable to go into detail at this time about the suspected offenses," Assistant Commissioner John Yates, the U.K. 's lead police officer for counterterrorism, said in a statement. "However, I believe it was necessary at this time to take action in order to ensure public safety."
Five of the arrested men are from Cardiff, four from Stoke-on-Trent and three from London, officers said.
Officers said the suspects range in age from 17 to 28 and will be questioned on suspicion of commissioning, preparing or instigating acts of terrorism.
The busts come after weeks of surveillance, and are not believed to be associated with the recent bombing in Sweden or any other attack.
The arrests are part of "a large scale, pre-planned and intelligence-led operation involving several Yates he said.
Bomb squad police shut down Terminal A at Newark Liberty International Airport on Monday as a precaution after the discovery of a suspicious package.
The package -- found at a security checkpoint -- turned out to be a computer monitor which was emitting small amounts of radiation, according to the FBI.
"The device is being shipped to the same destination as its owner who is already in flight. It appears there is no cause for alarm, but authorities are taking the necessary precautions to be certain. The investigation is ongoing," said the representative for the FBI Public Affairs Office.
"They're not going to take any chances," added Robert Strang, a security expert who was at the airport when Terminal A was shut down at approximately 8:00am local time.
"Right now it's a mess. It's one of the busiest times of year. If you're leaving from Terminal A, you're going to have a problem. You're not going to get in here," he added.
Strang said that flights from other terminals appeared to be on schedule at the airport, situated 17 miles outside New York City. He said the US was facing an ongoing terror threat from al Qaeda.
"We've been warned. We know that al Qaeda is trying to attack us. Unfortunately, it's going to happen," he added.
An American Airlines spokesperson told the Associated Press that the package was found behind a ticket counter at a security checkpoint, where checked bags were screened.
NYPD Trains for Mumbai-Like Attack
Earlier this month, NYPD ran antiterrorism exercises around the city, trying to prepare itself for the potential of simultaneous terrorist attacks. The simulations were unlike any the city had seen before, instead mirroring the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Spanning three days, the attacks on the most populous Indian city claimed the lives of 178 people. "It was a model that most counterterrorism practitioners hadn't really considered," said Mitchell Silber, head of the NYPD's intelligence analysis division. "The armed gunmen roaming around the city taking hostages, that wasn't something we had seen by any jihadist group." During the more than five hours of simulations, police learned that they still have a lot of work to do, particularly in containing and anticipating the terrorists. But at least now the department knows where it needs to improve.
While many New Yorkers celebrated Christmas morning by tearing open presents, American soldiers stationed in one of the most dangerous combat zones in Afghanistan awoke to a hail of gunfire from a Taliban attack.
As these dramatic photographs show, one US platoon stationed on the front line in Badel -- a treacherous enclave near the Pakistan border -- spent the day exchanging heavy gunfire with terrorist forces.
The Christmas Day confrontation resulted in no casualties -- but it dampened the holiday spirit for families of the brave troops deployed to a post that has come under attack on a daily basis.
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