The three terrorism plots uncovered in the past week join a long list of thwarted attacks on US soil – of varying degrees of sophistication – since the terrible events of 9/11. Some plots were being hatched abroad, but most were being conceived by people living in the United States.
The following list encapsulates 21 cases and their outcomes, in chronological order.
Richard Reid, ‘shoe bomber’ case – December 2001
Reid, a British citizen of Anglo-Jamaican heritage who converted to Islam in prison, hid explosives inside the soles of his shoes before boarding American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. He was apprehended on board by flight attendants and passengers after trying to light the fuse with a match. In 2003, Reid was found guilty on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison.
Jose Padilla, ‘dirty bomb’ case – May 2002
The FBI apprehended Padilla at O’Hare Airport in Chicago as he stepped off a plane from the Middle East, acting on information from detained senior Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah that he had directed a Hispanic man to carry out an attack using a radiological, or “dirty,” bomb. Padilla, who had been on a watch list, was arrested on a material witness warrant that allows terrorist suspects to be detained. President Bush designated Padilla, a US citizen, “an enemy combatant.”
Held by the US military without charge, Padilla eventually sued the US government for violating his habeas corpus rights (the right of an individual to petition against unlawful imprisonment). The US Supreme Court dismissed his case on a technicality. Padilla refiled his suit. Rather than allow the case to proceed before the high court, the Bush administration transferred Padilla from military custody into the criminal-justice system. In 2005, he was indicted for conspiring with Islamic terrorist groups but not for building a “dirty bomb.” Padilla was found guilty in August 2007 after a three-month trial and was sentenced to 17 years, four months in prison.
Lackawanna Six – September 2002
The Lackawanna Six, or Buffalo Six, are Sahim Alwan, Faysal Galab, Shafal Mosed, Yasein Taher, Yahya Goba, and Mukhtar al-Bakri. All six are Yemeni-Americans who lived in the Buffalo, N.Y., suburb of Lackawanna when they were arrested by the FBI. They were charged with aiding Osama bin Laden, giving material support to Al Qaeda, and traveling to Afghanistan.
All pleaded guilty except Bakri. Galab testified against the five other defendants. Alwan was sentenced to 9.5 years, Taher and Mosed to eight years, Galab to seven years, and Bakri and Goba to 10 years.
Iyman Faris – May 2003
Faris is a Kashmir-born US citizen who was a truck driver in Columbus, Ohio. He was arrested for conspiring to use blowtorches to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Faris and others abandoned the plot after the New York City police increased video surveillance of the bridge. According to the Justice Department, Faris admitted traveling from Pakistan to an Afghanistan jihadist training camp in late 2000. He was introduced to Osama bin Laden, the department says, and admitted knowing that Bin Laden and his friend were senior leaders in Al Qaeda. In a plea agreement, Faris pleaded guilty to conspiracy and providing material support to Al Qaeda. He received a 20-year sentence.
Virginia jihad network – June 2003
Eleven men were arrested in northern Virginia on suspicions they were a militant jihadist network that planned to train at terrorist camps abroad. Four of the 11 pleaded guilty. They were found to have connections with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-i-Taiba, a terrorist group that targets the Indian government. Authorities said the men had used paint ball games to train and prepare for battle, as well as surveillance and night vision equipment and wireless video cameras. Nine of the 11 are US citizens.
Ali al-Timimi, said to be group’s spiritual leader, was found guilty of soliciting individuals to assault the US and was sentenced to life in prison.
Ali Asad Chandia received 15 years for supporting Lashkar-i-Taiba.
Randoll Todd Royer, Ibrahim al-Hamdi, Yong Ki Kwon, Khwaja Mahmood Hasan, Muhammed Aatique, and Donald Surratt pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison. Masoud Khan, Seifullah Chapman, and Hammad Adur-Raheem were found guilty at trial. Khan was sentenced to life in prison plus six years. Chapman got 85 years, and Abdur-Raheem was sentenced to eight years.
Dhiren Barot – August 2004
Barot, alleged leader of a terrorist cell, was arrested in London for plotting to attack the New York Stock Exchange and Citigroup Center in Manhattan, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, and Prudential Financial Inc.’s headquarters in Newark, N.J. A July 2004 police raid on Barot’s house in Pakistan unearthed several files on a laptop computer, including instructions for a plot in Britain known as the “Gas Limos Project,” as well as company histories and organizational charts for the US targets. Barot, a Briton and former Hindu who converted to Islam, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mass murder. He was sentenced to 40 years; in May 2007 his sentence was reduced to 30 years.
James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj – August 2004
The two were charged with plotting to place explosive devices at the Herald Square subway station near Madison Square Garden in New York before the Republican National Convention. Government evidence included hours of secretly recorded conversations between Siraj and Osama Eldawoody, an Egyptian nuclear engineer who became a paid informant for the New York Police Department’s intelligence division, and who testified against Elshafay and Siraj. Siraj, a Pakistan national, was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. Elshafay, a US citizen, pleaded guilty and received a reduced sentence for testifying against Siraj.
Yassin Araf and Mohmmad Hossein – August 2004
Federal agents and local police raided the Masjid As-Salam mosque in Albany, N.Y., and charged Araf, a Kurdish refugee, and Hossein, the Bangladesh-born founder of the mosque, with plotting to buy a shoulder-fired grenade launcher to assassinate a Pakistani diplomat in New York. The charges stemmed from an FBI sting operation, in which an informant solicited the two men to help him carry out the “assassination.” Aref and Hossain were found guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to conceal material support for terrorism and later sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Lodi case – June 2005
Two US citizens – Umer Hayat, a Pakistani immigrant, and Hamid Hayat, his American-born son – were arrested in the rural Central Valley town of Lodi, Calif., after allegedly lying to the FBI about Hamid’s attendance at an Al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. Hamid Hayat was found guilty of supporting terrorism and was sentenced to 24 years. His father’s trial ended in a mistrial. He later pleaded guilty to lying to customs agents in attempt to carry $28,000 into Pakistan.
Los Angeles plot – August 2005
Four members of a local terrorist cell, Jam’iyyat Ul-Islam Is-Saheeh (JIS), were arrested in Los Angeles and charged with conspiring to attack the L.A. International Airport, a US military recruiting center, and the Israeli Consulate. Kevin James allegedly founded JIS while in prison, converting co-conspirators Levar Haley Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson, and Hammad Riaz Samana. James and Washington pleaded guilty in December 2007. James received 16 years in prison and Washington 22 years. Patterson received 12 years, 3 months. Samana was found unfit to stand trial and detained in a federal prison facility.
Michael Reynolds, Wyoming refinery plot – December 2005
Michael Reynolds was charged with involvement in a multistate plot to blow up a Wyoming natural-gas refinery and other pipeline and refinery targets. He was arrested while trying to pick up a $40,000 payment for planning the attack. Shannen Rossmiller, his purported contact, was a Montana judge who was working with the FBI to nab terrorists online and had been corresponding with Reynolds. The FBI later tracked explosives in a storage locker in Reynolds’s hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Reynolds was convicted of providing material support to terrorists and three explosives-related charges. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Syed Haaris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee – April 2006
Ahmed, from Pakistan, and Sadequee, an American of Bangladeshi descent, were charged with conspiracy. Sadequee was also charged with lying to authorities regarding another terror investigation. It was alleged that the two went to Canada to meet with co-conspirators and made videos to send to extremist groups. Ahmed was found guilty of conspiracy in June 2009. Sadequee, whose trial began in August 2009, was also convicted. Sentencing is set for Oct. 18.
Sears Tower plot – June 2006
Seven men, all of Haitian descent, were arrested in Atlanta and Miami. Authorities said the men, led by Narseal Batiste, conspired to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and a federal building in Miami. Five of the men are US citizens, one a legal immigrant, and one an illegal immigrant. All seven – Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Burson Augustin, Rotschild Augustine, Naudimar Herrera, Lyglenson Lemorin, Stanley Grant Phanor – pleaded not guilty. Lemorin was acquitted in December 2007, and no verdict was returned for the other defendants. A second trial ended in mistrial in April 2008. The third trial ended in May 2009, with all convicted except Herrara.
Hudson River bomb plot – July 2006
Assem Hammoud, an alleged Al Qaeda loyalist living in Lebanon, was arrested abroad along with seven others for plotting to bomb New York train tunnels. He was held by Lebanese authorities but never extradited (the US does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon). He was released on bail in June 2008 and is awaiting trial in Lebanon.
Liquid explosives plot – August 2006
British authorities arrested 24 suspects who allegedly conspired to blow up as many as 10 US-bound passenger jets, using liquid explosives hidden in their carry-on bags. The case had an immediate impact on travelers worldwide, resulting in new restrictions on the amount of liquids airline passengers could carry in a carry-on.
Fifteen of the 24 arrested were charged with conspiring to commit murder. Only eight were brought to trial in April 2008. In September 2009, a jury found the men not guilty of targeting an airplane, but found three guilty of conspiracy to commit murder. Verdicts could not be reached on four others, and one was cleared.
Hassan Abujihaad – March 2007
The former US Navy sailor was accused of supporting terrorism, including giving the locations of Navy ships to Azzam publications, an organization accused of providing material support and resources to terrorists. He was convicted in May 2008 and sentenced to 10 years.
Fort Dix plot – May 2007
Six young men living in New Jersey, all in their 20s, were charged with conspiring to attack Fort Dix with guns and grenades. Eljvir Duka, Dritan Duka, and Shain Duka, ethnic Albanians from Yugoslavia, were in the US illegally. Serdar Tatar is a legal US resident from Turkey. Agron Abdullahu is also an ethnic Albanian, and Mohammad Ibrahim Shnewer is Jordanian. The six were not well-organized and had insufficient training to pull off such an attack, according to unsealed documents. At trial in October 2008, Abdullah pleaded guilty and plea-bargained, receiving 20 months in prison. The others were found guilty in December 2008. The Duka brothers received life without parole; Shnewer got life plus 30 years. Tatar received 33 years.
JFK Airport plot – June 2007
Four men allegedly conspired to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the New York borough of Queens. Russell Defreitas, a US citizen of Guyanese descent, is alleged to be the group leader. Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur are also Guyanese, and Kareem Ibrahim is a citizen of Trinidad. The four pleaded not guilty in 2008. Trial is pending.
Mohammed Jabarah – January 2008
He was arrested in 2002 in Oman and transferred to US custody. In January 2008 he pleaded guilty to filming US, Israeli, and Australian embassies and conducting surveillance of US warships. He was suspected of training in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and associating with Bin Laden. Mr. Jabarah was sentenced to life in prison.
Christopher Paul – June 2008
Mr. Paul, a US citizen, joined Al Qaeda in the 1990s and became involved in conspiracies to target Americans in the US from overseas. He became involved in a terror cell in Germany in 1999. When he returned to Ohio, he was arrested for conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction “against targets in Europe and the United States.” Paul pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 20 years.
Synagogue terror plot – May 2009
Four men were arrested for plotting to blow up Jewish centers in the Bronx and shoot down planes at a nearby Air National Guard Base. They were caught placing what they thought were bombs in buildings and a car. Undercover agents sold them the explosives, which were fakes. All four – James Cromite, David Williams, Onta Williams, and Laguerre Payen – pleaded not guilty in September 2009. Trial is set for June 2010.