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2 men arrested in New York, accused of plotting to blow up synagogue

The two men, residents of Queens, planned to attack New York's Jewish community, officials say, and were arrested on terrorism and hate crime charges in a sting operation while trying to buy guns and a hand grenade.

May 12, 2011|By Geraldine Baum and Michael Muskal
  • Police officers on duty in Times Square. Two men have been arrested in a possible New York terrorist plot.
Police officers on duty in Times Square. Two men have been arrested in a possible… (Reuters )

Reporting from New York and Los Angeles — Two men who officials said complained that Muslims "were being treated like dogs" were accused Thursday of conspiring to blow up a synagogue and were being held on terrorism and hate-crime charges in New York.

The men were arrested Wednesday night while they buying guns and an inert hand grenade from undercover officers, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said at an afternoon news conference attended by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The case began before the killing of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden on May 2 during a U.S. raid in Pakistan.

“While Osama bin Laden may be dead, terrorism is not,” Bloomberg said. “There will always be threats by lone wolves like this.”

The suspects were being held on four counts of terrorism and hate crimes, Vance said at the news conference. If convicted on the terrorism charge, they faced life in prison without parole, he said. Authorities identified the suspects as Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohammed Mamdouh, 20, both of Queens. They are Americans of Algerian and Moroccan descent, respectively.

According to Kelly, the pair wanted to attack New York’s Jewish community and complained that they were fed up that Muslims “were treated like dogs.”

“We decided to make the arrest at this time because of the weapons purchase,” Kelly said. “We did not want to risk losing track when we knew they were a danger to the Jewish community.”

One man was arrested at 58th Street and 12th Avenue, the other in a nearby car. They had tried to buy three guns, two of which they planned to resell to fund their activities, officials said.

Federal officials were not involved in the arrest, because the case began with a city sting. By the time it had evolved into a terrorism case, it made more sense to have the local officials make the arrests, said Kelly, who denied there were any problems in relations between city and federal authorities.

Officials called it the 13th attempted attack by Islamic militants on New York since Sept. 11, 2001.

geraldine.baum@latimes.com

michael.muskal@latimes.com

Baum reported from New York and Muskal from Los Angeles

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