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December 5, 2012 1

New York Synagogue Bomb Plot Suspect Pleads Guilty

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.

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