NEW YORK - US Federal authorities announced Saturday they had broken up a
suspected Muslim terrorist cell planning a "chilling" attack to destroy John F.
Kennedy International Airport, kill thousands of people and trigger an economic
catastrophe by blowing up a jet fuel artery that runs through populous
Three men, one of them a former
member of Guyana's parliament, were arrested and one was being sought in
Trinidad as part of a plot that authorities said they had been tracked for more
than a year and was foiled in the planning stages.
A plane lands Saturday, June 2, 2007 at John F. Kennedy
International Airport in the Queens borough of New
"The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just
unthinkable," US Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said at a news conference, calling
it "one of the most chilling plots imaginable."
In an indictment charging the four men, one of them is quoted as saying the
foiled plot would "cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks,"
destroying the airport, killing several thousand people and destroying parts of
New York's borough of Queens, where the line runs underground.
One of the suspects, Russell Defreitas, a US citizen native to Guyana and
former JFK air cargo employee, said the airport named for the slain president
was targeted because it is a symbol that would put "the whole country in
"It's like you can kill the man twice," said Defreitas, 63, who first hatched
his plan more than a decade ago when he worked as a cargo handler for a service
company, according to the indictment.
Authorities said the men were motivated by hatred toward the US, Israel and
the West. Defreitas was recorded saying he "wanted to do something to get those
Despite their efforts, the men never obtained any explosives, authorities
"Pulling off any bombing of this magnitude would not be easy in today's
environment," former US State Department counterterrorism expert Fred Burton
said, but added it was difficult to determine without knowing all the facts of
Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline expert and president of Accufacts Inc., an
energy consulting firm that focuses on pipelines and tank farms, said the force
of explosion would depend on the amount of fuel under pressure, but it would not
travel up and down the line.
"That doesn't mean wackos out there can't do damage and cause a fire, but
those explosions and fires are going to be fairly restricted," he said.
Since Defreitas retired from his job at the airport, security has
significantly tightened and his knowledge of the operation was severely
He was arraigned Saturday afternoon in federal court, but did not enter a
plea. He was to be held pending a bail hearing scheduled for Wednesday,
prosecutors said. A phone number for his lawyer could not be located.
Two other men, Abdul Kadir of Guyana and Kareem Ibrahim of Trinidad, were in
custody in Trinidad. A fourth man, Abdel Nur of Guyana, was still being sought
Authorities said Kadir and Nur were longtime associates of a Trinidadian
radical Muslim group, Jamaat al Muslimeen, which launched an unsuccessful
rebellion in 1990 that left 24 dead.
Kadir, a former member of Parliament in Guyana, was arrested in Trinidad for
attempting to secure money for "terrorist operations," according to a Guyanese
police commander who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Kadir left his position in Parliament last year. Muslims make up about 9
percent of the former Dutch and British colony's 770,000 population, mostly from
the Sunni sect.
Isha Kadir, the Guyanese suspect's wife, said her husband flew from Guyana to
Trinidad on Thursday. She said he was arrested Friday as he was boarding a
flight from Trinidad to Venezuela, where he planned to pick up a travel visa to
attend an Islamic religious conference in Iran.
"We have no interest in blowing up anything in the US," she said Saturday
from the couple's home in Guyana. "We have relatives in the US"
The pipeline, owned by Buckeye Pipeline Co., takes fuel from a facility in
Linden, N.J., to the airport. Other lines service LaGuardia Airport and Newark
Liberty International Airport.
Buckeye spokesman Roy Haase said the company, which moves petroleum through
pipelines in a number of states, had been informed of the threat from the
beginning but he declined to detail the company's security measures.
"Given the nature of Buckeye business and the importance of this
transportation network, we have an intense and ongoing communications
relationship with the Port Authority, the New York City fire and police
departments, the federal Department of Homeland Security and the FBI," he said.
Buckeye is a subsidiary of Buckeye Partners, L.P. based in Macungie, Pa.
JFK and the area's other airports remained at a heightened state of alert
Saturday, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said.
Jeanie Mamo, a spokeswoman for the White House, said President Bush had been
briefed and updated regularly as the investigation into the plot progressed.
"This case is a good example of international counterterrorism cooperation,"
The arrests mark the latest in a series of alleged homegrown terrorism plots
targeting high-profile American landmarks.
A year ago, seven men were arrested in what officials called the early stages
of a plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and destroy FBI offices and
A month later, authorities broke up a plot to bomb underwater New York City
train tunnels to flood lower Manhattan.
And six people were arrested a month ago in an alleged plot to unleash a
bloody rampage on Fort Dix in New Jersey.