NEW YORK (Jun. 24)
Eight men linked to an Islamic fundamentalist group were arrested Thursday for plotting to blow up the U.N. headquarters, FBI headquarters in Manhattan, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels, which connect Manhattan with New Jersey.
The group also had a death list that included U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and New York State Assembly-man Dov Hikind.
D’Amato, a staunch supporter of Israel, has called for the death penalty for terrorism cases and has repeatedly said Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, with whom the suspects are linked, should be jailed while he appeals a deportation order.
Hikind, who represents largely Orthodox strongholds in Brooklyn, was a major supporter of Rabbi Meir Kahane, a right-wing militant activist who was assassinated here in 1990.
The man charged in Kahane’s murder, El Sayyid Nosair, has also been linked to Abdel-Rahman and to the suspects arrested in connection with the bombing last February of New York’s World Trade Center.
Nosair was acquitted of Kahane’s murder and is currently serving time in prison on lesser charges stemming from the shooting.
The alleged ringleader of the group arrested Thursday, Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, also has close ties to the radical Sheik Abdel-Rahman.
Five suspects were mixing the chemicals for their bombs in Queens when they were arrested. The other three were arrested later in Brooklyn; Jersey City, N.J.; and Yonkers, N.Y.
The arrests follow a four-month undercover investigation conducted by the Joint Terrorist Task Force, made up of members of the FBI and New York City police. Officials have called the investigation one of the most significant ever undertaken in the United States.
‘WE CAN GET YOU ANYTIME’
The group intended to carry out their plans before the September trials scheduled for the defendants in the World Trade Center bombing, according to James Fox, the FBI’s New York director.
“As we entered the bomb factory, the suspects were literally mixing the ‘witches’ brew,’ ” Fox told reporters.
The suspects’ message was, “We can get you anytime,” according to Mary Jo White, U.S. attorney for Brooklyn.
“They were looking for something spectacular to blow up, something that would make the World Trade Center look like a minor incident,” Hikind told reporters separately.
In reaction to the arrests on Thursday, the New York Jewish Community Relations Council called for all the suspects to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
“Only through the prosecution of every one of those named,” in this and the World Trade Center incidents, “will the clear, unequivocal message be sent that terrorism will not be tolerated in this country,” JCRC Executive Director Michael Miller said in a statement.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said that these latest arrests underline the notion that Arab terrorism is no longer an issue just for Israel.
“Arab terrorism — long a problem to the people of Israel — became an American issue when the World Trade Center was bombed in February,” said a statement by the conference. “The latest arrests confirm that these groups represent a major threat to public safety and public order.”