Four men allegedly schemed to blow up pipeline, JFK airport
The Associated Press
NEW YORK — 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 residential neighborhoods.
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.
“The devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable,” U.S. 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.
One of the suspects, Russell Defreitas, a U.S. 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 mourning.”
Since Defreitas retired from his job at the airport, security has significantly tightened and his knowledge of the operation was severely outdated.
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 in Trinidad.
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.