6 Arrested in Plot on NJ Army Base

Fort Dix, NJ (CBS/AP) - Six men described by U.S. federal prosecutors as "Islamic militants" were arrested on charges they plotted to attack the Fort Dix Army base and "kill as many soldiers as possible," authorities said Tuesday.

The six were scheduled to appear in federal court in Camden later Tuesday to face charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. servicemen, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey.

Officials said four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one in Jordan and one in Turkey. Five of them lived in Cherry Hill, 10 miles east of Philadelphia and 20 miles southwest of Fort Dix, Drewniak said.

"They were planning an attack on Fort Dix in which they would kill as many soldiers as possible," Drewniak said.

Three of the men are illegal aliens, three are legal permanent residents, one of whom is a U.S. citizen, CBS News reports.

The six men, all in their 20s, according to the criminal complaint include three brothers from Yugoslavia, all in the U.S. illegally: Shain Duka, Eljvr Duka and Dritan Duka.

Mohammad Shnewer, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Jordan, Serdar Tatar, a Turkish-born U.S. legal resident and a sixth man, Agron Abdullahu, were also arrested, CBS News reports.

At the time of the arrests, the plot was in the planning stages and no attack was imminent, CBS News has learned. Officials said this is more of a "homegrown" plot with no ties to al Qaeda or any other international terrorist organization, CBS News reports.

According to federal wiretaps, Tatar's family owned a pizzeria and the men hoped to gain access to the base by making pizza deliveries, CBS News reports.

Authorities believe the men trained in the Poconos mountains for the attack, and also conducted surveillance at other area military institutions, including Fort Monmouth, a law enforcement official said. The official, who requested anonymity, said the men had lived in the United States for some time.

The six were arrested trying to buy automatic weapons in a sale set-up by law enforcement authorities, the official said.

The Star-Ledger of Newark reported that the men had videotaped their training sessions in the Poconos. The video eventually led to their arrests as the men brought the tape to a retail store seeking to have it burned to a DVD, the newspaper reported, citing its source.

A store employee watched the tape and informed the FBI, the newspaper reported.

After finding out about the video, the FBI launched its investigation and watched as the group scouted various military bases. The men went to the Poconos to shoot weapons and played paintball in New Jersey. The men also talked about how soldiers could be killed at the annual Army-Navy football game, CBS News reports.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said there is "no direct evidence" that the men arrested in the Fort Dix plot have ties to international terrorism.

"They are not charged with being members of an international terrorism organization," Snow said. "At least at this point, there is no evidence that they received direction from international terror organizations. However, their involvement in weapons training, operational surveillance and discussions about killing American military personnel warranted a strong law enforcement response."

Asked if those arrested had any ties to al Qaeda, Snow referred questions to the FBI and the U.S. attorney, but said those officials "seem to indicate that there is no direct evidence of a foreign terrorist tie."

Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for the FBI in Philadelphia, said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie and J.P. Weis, special agent in charge of the FBI in Philadelphia, would release more information at a news conference later Tuesday.

Christie's office previously brought, and won, a similar post-9/11 terrorism case against a British national named Hemant Lakhani, who plotted to obtain shoulder-fired missiles to shoot at airliners, CBS News reports.

Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists. In 1999, it sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

After that war, refugees were allowed to return to the U.N.-run province of Kosovo in Serbia or to seek permanent residency in the United States. The U.N. Security Council is considering whether to approve a plan to grant Kosovo independence from Serbia under the supervision of the European Union and the United States.

Jeff Sagnip, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. James Saxton, who represents Fort Dix, said the base, along with adjacent McGuire Air Force Base, has been put on its highest security alert level.

He said Fort Dix typically has 15,000 people, including 3,000 soldiers; McGuire, which is adjacent to Fort Dix, has about 11,500 people.

Soldiers at Fort Dix have been training for warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, Sagnip said.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the once-open Fort Dix has been closed to the public. There are heavily armed guards at entrances, along with X-ray machines and concrete barriers to make it impossible for vehicles to rush the entrances.

But the main road through neighboring Cookstown cuts through the base and is accessible to the public. A half-dozen locations on the base, including at least two where soldiers were conducting maneuvers Tuesday morning, were only a few hundred yards off the main road and accessible to anyone.

The description of the suspects as "Islamic militants" was causing renewed worry among New Jersey's Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded up and detained by authorities in the months following the Sept. 11 attacks, but none was connected to that plot.

"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the 2001 attacks. "But when the government says 'Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous.

"Don't equate actions with religion," he said.

Copyright 2007, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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