Madrid Train Bombings Victim Families Rail Court Acquittals

The families of victims killed in the 2004 Madrid train bombings were outraged yesterday at the Spanish national court’s acquittals of seven defendants and the perceived leniency in sentences handed down to those convicted of the worst terrorist attacks carried out by Islamic militants on European soil.

On March 11, 2004 ten backpacks loaded with nails and dynamite exploded on four commuter trains during morning peak hour in Madrid. The blasts ripped apart several carriages, killing 191 people and wounding 1,841 more.

Spanish authorities brought a total of 28 suspects to trial – 19 Arabs, mostly from Morocco, and 9 Spaniards. Seven other men believed to have been ringleaders blew themselves up in a Madrid apartment three weeks after the attacks as police closed in to arrest them.

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Wisconsin Deputy Named In Shooting Rampage

Seven young people are dead and one critically wounded following America’s latest shooting rampage, which has left a small Wisconsin town numb with grief.

The gunman has been identified as 20 year-old Tyler Peterson, an off-duty Forest County sheriff’s deputy and part-time City of Crandon police officer.

The town of Crandon is located 180 miles north of Milwaukee and is home to 2,000 residents.

At about 3 a.m. on Sunday, Peterson allegedly stormed into the home of his former girlfriend, Jordanne Murray, and shot her dead along with five other friends who had gathered for pizza and movies. One critically wounded teenager remains in hospital.

Mr Peterson himself was later killed by a sniper from the Crandon SWAT unit on Sunday afternoon.

The group of friends, all aged between 14-20 years of age, had assembled at Ms Murray’s home on Saturday evening to celebrate the local high school’s football victory.

The following victims were identified by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Jordanne Murray, 18 – Ms Murray had until recently been in a long-term relationship with Mr Peterson, and last year had graduated from Crandon High School. She worked two jobs, at the local hamburger and ice cream parlor and at the local Subway sandwich shop.

Katrina McCorkle, 18 – Ms McCorkle was a senior at Crandon High and a keen softball player. She had planned to attend college and had been making enquiries at a number of universities.

Leanna Thomas, 18 – Ms Thomas was also in her senior year at Crandon High School. Her grandfather managed to say only that “She was such a sweet little girl” before tearfully terminating an interview with the newspaper.

Bradley Schultz, 20 – Mr Schultz was a student majoring in criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee; he worked part-time at an electrical supply company to pay for his studies. He graduated from Crandon High School in 2005 and had been friends with Mr Peterson since childhood.

Aaron Smith, (age not known) – Mr Smith, called “Chunk” by his friends, graduated from Crandon High School in 2005. His recreational interests included football and fishing. He was also a childhood friend of Mr Peterson.

Lindsey Stahl, 14 – Ms Stahl was a freshman at Crandon High School and worked part-time with Ms Murray at the local hamburger and ice cream parlor. She was passionate about global warming and animal rights.

Charlie Nietzel, 19 – Mr Nietzel was a resident of the neighboring town of Pickeral, but was a close friend of all the victims and the gunman. He survived the shooting and remains in critical condition at St Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Mr Peterson’s motive is not yet clear, although there is some speculation that Ms Murray had recently ended their relationship and begun a new relationship, which Mr Peterson had not accepted.

One local teenager who knew the entire group of close-knit friends also said that Mr Peterson had a history of being bullied by other students in high school.

Friends and family of the victims were still reeling from the shock of the tragedy.

Kelly Flanery, 15, described Ms Murray as “… like, the nicest person. She was friends with everyone. I didn’t believe it at first. It didn’t like sink in, it really hasn’t.”

Ms Stahl’s half-brother, Ryan Coulter, praised her intelligence, compassion and interest in important issues. “She probably would have changed the world, you know,” he said.

Steve Bocek, the uncle of Mr Schultz, was as baffled and as he was grief-stricken when he heard his nephew had been killed. “He was such a good kid; who would ever expect this?” he asked. “He was just always a nice kid, always polite. He just wanted to come down here to go to school so he could further his education.”

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that streets remain barricaded near the shooting scene, and that “the soul of Crandon seemed to shake with grief”.

“This is affecting everybody in this small community,” said Tom Vollmar, a Forest County supervisor who has lived in Crandon for 57 years. “There’s no family that hasn’t been touched in one way or another.”

Crisis counselors are helping local residents deal with the tragedy at Crandon High School, where school has been cancelled for the day, and at Praise Chapel Community Church.

The church’s pastor, Rev. Bill Farr, received a call from the sheriff’s office at 6.30 a.m. on Sunday asking that he open the church early to give grieving relatives and friends of the victims a place to gather and support each other.

“This is going to take a long time for a community like this to get over,” he said through tears as he stood next to his pickup truck in the church parking lot Sunday night, holding hands and praying with other church members.

“We just really need everyone’s prayers right now,” he said.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Petraeus Report: Under bin Laden Backdrop

As General David Petraeus heads into a hostile US Congress this week to defend the troop surge in Iraq, the reappearance of Osama bin Laden in an internet video has ignited fresh allegations that the Bush administration has dropped the ball on counterterrorism and homeland security to focus on the war in Iraq.

The bin Laden video surfaced on the internet on Friday, in the lead up to the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the US. The 26-minute speech refers to the “vulnerability” of the United States , the “unjust” war in Iraq and the “reeling of many of you under the burden of interest-related debts, insane taxes and real estate mortgages.” He also blamed “global warming and its woes” on “emissions of the factories the major corporations”, and repeatedly urged Americans to embrace Islam.

A voice analysis conducted by the CIA confirmed that the speaker is definitely bin Laden. His references to the election of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the appointment of Gordon Brown as British Prime Minister further convinced intelligence officials that the tape was made within the last few months.

The White House immediately dismissed bin Laden as ‘virtually impotent’ and the tape itself as ‘propaganda’. Homeland security advisor Fran Townsend told Fox News Sunday, “This is a man on the run from a cave who is virtually impotent other than these tapes.”

However, this assessment is not accurate according to an investigative report published on Saturday in the Washington Post which claims that bin Laden is still a central figure in the leadership of al Qaeda. “Today, al Qaeda operates much the way it did before 2001,” says the report. “The network is governed by a shura, or leadership council, that meets regularly and reports to bin Laden, who continues to approve some major decisions, according to a senior US intelligence official.” Another official said, “They do appear to meet with a frequency that enables them to act as an organization and not just as a loose bunch of guys.”

Following the US military strikes in Afghanistan in late 2001, al Qaeda moved its activities across the Pakistani border into the dusty frontier town of Peshawar. There the al Qaeda leadership rebuilt the organization’s operational capacity through fundraising, recruiting and training. Meanwhile, it also “expanded its media arm into perhaps the most effective propaganda machine ever assembled by a terrorist or insurgent network.”

Michael Scheuer, a former CIA analyst who led the intelligence team that tracked bin Laden, believes that al Qaeda’s leadership remains robust, adaptive and dangerously relevant. “All this business about them being isolated or cut off is whistling past the graveyard,” he said. “We’re looking at an organization that is extraordinarily adept at succession planning.”

Opponents of the war in Iraq have long disputed the Bush administration’s claim that the war is necessary to advance counterterrorism and protect the US homeland. The new bin Laden video has drawn a fresh backlash from the war’s most vocal critics.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who voted against the joint resolution in 2002 to invade Iraq, told CNN on Sunday: “Every time I see that fugitive terrorist on television taunting America I think of how wrong this president was in turning away from going after that murderer, who murdered our citizens, and moving into Iraq and not having any way of getting us out.”

Meanwhile, the chair and vice-chair of the 9/11 Commission warn that the war in Iraq continues to drain US counterterrorism and homeland security resources while boosting recruitment and training opportunities for al Qaeda. In their joint opinion piece published in this weekend’s Washington Post, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton wrote, “No conflict drains more time, attention, blood, treasure and support from our worldwide counterterrorism efforts than the war in Iraq. It has become a powerful recruiting and training tool for al Qaeda … We have become distracted and complacent.”

Responding on Fox News, Ms Townsend hit back, “It is not a distraction. It is an integral part of the war [on terror] effort.”

Discussing the new bin Laden video, Ms Townsend said, “We do take the tapes seriously. Look at the activities recently in Germany and Denmark. So we know that al Qaeda is still determined to attack, and we take it seriously. But this tape looks — appears to be nothing more than threats. It’s propaganda on their part.”

On the other hand, CIA Director Michael Hayden recently issued this warning: “Our analysts assess with high confidence that al Qaeda’s central leadership is planning high-impact plots against the American homeland.”

Political analysts are still pouring over the new bin Laden video. Citing the absence of any direct threats, some experts say the speech seems to be little more than a morale boost for al Qaeda followers; however, others believe the message has a much greater significance.

Rohan Gunaratna, an international terrorism expert and author of the book Inside Al Qaeda, told Reuters, “Osama’s call to the Americans to convert to Islam is indicative of an al Qaeda attack on US targets. Before the Prophet (Mohammad) attacked his enemies he urged his opponents to embrace Islam. Osama is presenting Koranic injunctions before planning to attack.”

Khalid al-Dakhil, a professor of political science at King Saud University, agrees that there is an implicit threat. “There was a US report warning of a possible attack, then came this,” he said. “The whole message is focused on the United States … this suggests that there is a threat. The more important thing is the message that leaving Iraq will not solve the problem.”

Meanwhile, President Bush seized on bin Laden’s reference to Iraq to reinforce his case for continuing the war. “I found it interesting that, on the tape, Iraq was mentioned, which is a reminder that Iraq is a part of this war against extremists,” said Mr Bush. “If al Qaeda bothers to mention Iraq, it is because they want to achieve their objectives in Iraq, which is to drive us out and to develop a safe haven.”

Those who read more into the message are cautioning that bin Laden’s focus seems far from Iraq. “The message is much more threatening this time,” said Mohamed El-Sayed, Deputy Director of the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. “It’s confident, it uses iconic language that suggests, ‘I’m commissioned to wage an unending war against you, and the only way to get peace is to convert to Islam.’ It’s very clear that he took care to give the impression that he’s at ease, he’s on the offensive and he controls the situation. He’s not a fugitive, he’s very comfortable … He’s saying ‘Now I can show you mercy or not.’”

German Police Hunt For Ten Terror Suspects

German police are hunting for 10 terror suspects believed to have been involved in a foiled plot to bomb Frankfurt Airport, US military bases, discotheques and pubs frequented by Americans in Germany in the lead up to the anniversary of the terrorist strikes in the United States on September 11, 2001.

Three suspects are already in custody – two German converts to Islam and a Turkish national – after they were arrested and reportedly found to be in possession of 1,500 lbs. of hydrogen peroxide, which German prosecutors say would have had the explosive power of 1,200 lbs. of TNT.

Germany’s chief prosecutor, Monika Harms, said the planned series of car bombings would have caused a massive loss of life. “We have stopped what would certainly have been the worst terror attacks in Germany,” she said.

Jorg Ziercke, head of Germany’s Federal Crime Office, said the explosives “would have been enough to cause damage on a greater scale than in London and Madrid”. The train and bus bombings in London (July 2005) and the train bombings in Madrid (March 2004) killed 56 and 191 people, respectively, and wounded nearly 3,000.

The suspects were reportedly motivated by a “deep hatred of US citizens” and aimed to claim as many lives as possible in the coordinated attacks.

The three men in custody – named only as Daniel S, Fritz G and Aden Y – are all aged in their twenties. They recently aroused the suspicion of German authorities when they were seen loitering around a US military base in Hanau, near Frankfurt. After weeks of surveillance, they were arrested on Tuesday afternoon in a rented house in Sauerland, 60 miles east of Dusseldorf, when Germany’s elite GSG-9 anti-terrorist unit stormed the house, fearing that a major terrorist attack was imminent.

Two of the suspects were apprehended immediately. The third slipped out of a bathroom window but was caught 300 yards away by police who had cordoned off the area. Following the arrests, police raided homes across Germany and seized money and computers.

The men arrested are believed to have received terrorist training in Pakistan before setting up a German cell of the Islamic Jihad Union, a now-obsolete Sunni Muslim terrorist group formerly based in Uzbekistan and linked to al Qaeda.

Their list of targets for the planned terrorist attacks included Frankfurt Airport, Germany’s busiest airport, and Ramstein air base, the Pentagon’s largest air base outside of America. Other US military bases were apparently also identified, along with ‘soft’ targets that included discos and pubs known to be popular with Americans in Germany.

US intelligence officials were kept informed of the developments in Germany, but did not participate in the operation. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security were monitoring the situation but stressed that they “see no imminent threat to the US domestically following these arrests”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the arrests as a “very, very great success”. Thanking German security officials, she also said, “This shows that terrorist dangers, in our country as well, are not abstract but are real. It also shows for me that international cooperation is of decisive significance in the fight against terrorism.”

US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said that US President George Bush was pleased that a potential attack had been averted and also thanked German authorities.

UK Terror Means Critical Security Threats

The UK is bracing itself for a fresh wave of terrorist attacks following three attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow on Friday and Saturday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who took office on Wednesday, said in a national televised address on Sunday that “it is clear that we are dealing with people who are associated with al Qaeda.”

Security authorities have long feared that the deadly car bombings which have become daily occurrences in Iraq would spread to European cities.

Late Saturday, the new Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, raised the national terror threat to the highest level – ‘critical’ – which indicates that an attack is expected ‘imminently’.

“This weekend’s bomb attacks signal a major escalation in the war being waged on us by Islamic terrorists,” said Lord Stevens, London’s former police chief and a terrorism adviser appointed earlier this week by Mr Brown. “Now al Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali to the streets of the UK,” he wrote in an opinion piece published in Sunday’s News of the World.

British authorities said evidence indicated that the attack on Glasgow Airport, in which two men rammed a flaming Jeep into the entrance of the main terminal, had been a botched suicide mission.

One witness, Scott Leeson, said: “The car came speeding past. Then the driver swerved the car around so he could ram straight in to the door. He must have been trying to smash straight through.”

Some witnesses reported that the driver got jammed between concrete security bollards as he tried to plough into the terminal, which was bustling with families waiting to check in for flights on the first day of school holidays.

“They were obviously trying to get it further inside the airport as the wheels were spinning and smoke was coming from them,” said another witness, Lynsey McBean.

The driver then got out and poured gasoline over himself and the vehicle and lit them both, setting off a series of explosions.

“It was just a small fire at first,” said Robin Patterson. “Then there was an enormous explosion. The guy next to the car, his skin and clothes just fell off him.”

Engulfed in flames, the burning man threw punches at passengers and police and shouted “Allah! Allah!” as he tried to escape. He was restrained by police, who put out the flames with a fire extinguisher. Both the driver and his passenger were led away by police in handcuffs.

The driver was then taken to a local hospital to receive treatment. There, staff found on him a ‘suspect device’ believed to be a suicide belt, forcing the evacuation of the hospital. However, this proved to be a false alarm.

Five bystanders were also injured in the Glasgow Airport attack , none seriously.  On Sunday morning, the airport resumed flights, with passengers entering the terminal through a police cordon.

Glasgow police chief Willie Rae said Saturday’s airport attack and Friday’s attempted car bombings in London appear to have been connected. “There are clearly similarities and we can confirm that this is being treated as a terrorist incident,” he said.

Police discovered two Mercedes in central London in the early hours of Friday morning, each packed with gasoline-filled containers, gas cylinders, propane tanks and nails.

One car was parked outside the popular Tiger Tiger nightclub on Haymarket in London’s West End, a busy thoroughfare lined with clubs, theatres and restaurants and only a short walk from Piccadilly Circus. An ambulance driver treating one of the nightclub’s patrons for a head wound noticed vapors coming from the car and alerted police, who defused the explosives. The other car had been parked illegally on a nearby street and was towed away.

Police now believe that the bombers intended to use one explosion to draw panicking club patrons out on to the streets; then a second car bomb could have been detonated in the crowd to cause hundreds of deaths. This was the tactic used in the October 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people.

Chris Driver-Williams, a retired British army major and now a terrorist bomb consultant to the US and British governments, told the Washington Post that the explosive firepower of the crude devices could have been “catastrophic”, especially since the valves on the gas cylinders were left open to create a fuel-air explosion.

This type of explosion uses oxygen to ignite a blast wave more powerful than many conventional explosives. However, these devices are difficult to ignite properly and could explain the flames coming from the Jeep even before its crash into the airport terminal in Glasgow.

Nevertheless, Mr Driver-Williams said that if such explosives were ignited properly, the result would be a “fireball the size of a house”.

The bombs assembled for the attempted London car bombings may reflect the increased restrictions on high-powered explosive materials in the UK.

“The danger here is that we are entering the era of the car bomb,” an unnamed  British intelligence source told The Independent. “In the past, al Qaeda-style terrorists have used high-explosive bombs aimed at symbolic, high-profile targets. But it’s easy to make a gas and nail car bomb without raising suspicion.”

Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish terrorism expert has also said that the threat to the UK is the gravest in Europe because the UK is considered a close ally of the US and a major military partner in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

It is not known yet whether the car bombers in London and Glasgow were assisted or funded by overseas terrorist organizations. Yet they are believed to be members of a loose network of terrorist cells that use the Internet to exchange information on the latest terror tactics.

Police have begun investigating the al Hesbah chat forum, which is frequently used by al Qaeda supporters. One message posted by frequent contributor Abu Osama al-Hazeen stated that “London shall be bombed” hours before the first car bomb was found in Haymarket. Police are trying to locate Mr al-Hazeen by following his ‘electronic footprint’.

Police are also using more conventional means to track down those involved, including forensic testing and security camera video footage. While the two Mercedes used were probably stolen, police have obtained a fairly clear CCTV image of one suspect who ran from the Mercedes in Haymarket at 1.30am on Friday. Investigators are now tracking his further movements using images taken by hundreds of cameras throughout central London. Police believe it is highly unlikely that those involved have tried to leave the country.

Five suspects have been arrested so far in connection with the incidents in Glasgow and London. In addition to the two men taken into custody at Glasgow Airport, police arrested two other suspects early Sunday on a major highway in Cheshire, northern England. A fifth suspect was arrested in Liverpool, where John Lennon Airport was closed overnight following the discovery of another suspicious vehicle. The airport has since reopened.

The UK’s new terror threat comes one week before the anniversary of the bombings which shook London on July 7, 2005. Just before 9 am that morning, three bombs exploded within fifty seconds of each other on Underground commuter trains; nearly an hour later, another bomb exploded on a double-decker bus. Fifty-two people were killed in the blasts, with more than 700 injured. It was later discovered that the bombings had been carried out by home-grown British Muslim extremists based in Birmingham.

British authorities have now ordered that security be tightened around the Wimbledon tennis tournament and Sunday’s concert honoring the late Princess Diana, which is expected to attract a crowd of 60,000 to London’s Wembley Stadium.

Glasgow Airport Attacked By Jeep With Explosives

One day after police foiled two car bombings in London, a Jeep Cherokee in flames was driven at full speed into the main terminal of Glasgow airport at 3.15 pm local time.

Witnesses said two men of Asian appearance drove the blazing Jeep through the glass doors at the departures lounge and only stopped when they crashed into security barriers, setting off a series of explosions.

Eyewitness Ian Crosby, a taxi driver, said: “This was no accident. This was a deliberate attack on Glasgow Airport.”

“There were flames coming out from underneath, then some men appeared from in amongst the flames,” said another witness. “The police ran over and the people started fighting with the police. I then heard what sounded like an explosion.”

At the time, Fiona Tracey was at the airport picking up her daughter. “There were people injured, because I’ve seen them lying on the road,” she said. “I was standing next to departures when I heard a great big massive bang, and then all the folk from departures were running through arrivals.”

After the men emerged from the Jeep, one engulfed in flames, they tried to flee on foot but were tackled first by passengers and then by police.

One witness said, “Some holidaymaker tried to restrain one of the men, then the police came over and wrestled him to the ground – the fire was burning through his clothes – and finally put him out with a fire extinguisher.”

Stephen Clarkson said he was stunned at first to see people racing past him and the Jeep in flames in the distance. When he noticed that police were clearly in pursuit of one man running towards him, he swung into action. “It was lucky that I was there,” he said. “I managed to knock the man to the ground with my forearm and the police got on top of him and restrained him and put handcuffs on him.”

Dr Rak Nandwani was collecting visiting relatives when he heard the explosion and noticed a plume of black smoke rising from the flaming vehicle. “The whole place has come to a standstill, the terminal building has been evacuated,” he said. “I have spoken to my relatives and they have been moved to outside the building. They were told they could not pick their baggage up from the baggage collection area. There must be about 50 police cars at the airport. Me and my son, along with everyone else, have been moved to the car rental area.”

A spokesman for the British Airports Authority confirmed the evacuation and the cancellation of all incoming and outgoing flights: “A car is on fire at the entrance to the terminal and there is considerable smoke damage to the terminal. The terminal has been evacuated as a result of this and all flights have now been suspended.”

Strathclyde Fire Service quickly brought the blaze under control but are still at the scene.

Strathclyde Police released a statement saying it is too early to tell whether the incident was a terrorist attack or in any way related to the attempted car bombings in London.

“Local roads have been closed and police are advising members of the public not to travel to the airport. Incoming and outgoing flights have been suspended until further notice and the airport has been closed,” said the statement.

“Strathclyde Police would like to reassure the public that it is unknown at present if this is connected with the incidents in London as enquiries are at an early stage. However, we would ask the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”

Drug Dealer, Racketeer Help Foil JFK Airport Bomb Plot

With four men now facing criminal charges related to the terror plot to blow up JFK International Airport and its expansive network of fuel lines, it has emerged that a drug dealer and racketeer worked with New York police and the FBI to help foil the plot.

The four suspects include 63 year-old Russell Defreitas, a native of Guyana and naturalized American who worked as an airport cargo handler during the early 1990’s, and 55 year-old Abdul Kadir who previously served as a mayor of a town in Guyana and as a Member of Parliament until two years ago.

On Friday, Mr Defreitas was arrested in Brooklyn, while Mr Kadir was taken into custody in Trinidad after his flight to Caracas was ordered to return to the airport.

Kareem Ibrahim, 61, was also arrested in Trinidad, where police are still hunting the fourth suspect, Abdul Nur, 57.

The US is seeking the extradition of Mr Kadir and Mr Ibrahim, and will probably also seek the same for Mr Nur when he is found. If convicted, the men could be jailed for life in the US.

A police informant with a criminal record that includes drug dealing and racketeering agreed to assist the investigation in exchange for payments and a reduced sentence.

The informant, who has not been identified, attended the same Brooklyn mosque as Mr Defreitas and befriended him last July. According to a complaint read out in the Brooklyn federal court where Mr Defreitas was arraigned, Mr Defreitas had confided to the informant his deep-seated hatred for the US because of what he saw as the US government’s pro-Israel, anti-Muslim bias.

“He saw military parts being shipped to Israel, including missiles, that would be used to kill Muslims,” stated the complaint, which also quoted Mr Defreitas as saying, “Muslims always incur the wrath of the world while Jews get a pass.”

Mr. Defreitas boasted that the carnage from his attack on JFK airport – which hosts 1,000 flights per day – would dwarf the death toll from 9/11 because he believed that the entire fuel network would also explode. This network includes a system of feeder pipes that carry jet fuel, heating oil and gasoline from New Jersey through Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

Yet oil industry experts have said that safety valves would almost certainly have prevented such a catastrophic explosion. Meanwhile, law enforcement investigators were quick to point out that no financing or explosives had yet been obtained to carry out the attack, and so passengers and residents had never been in any immediate danger.

Mr Defreitas was also reportedly fixated on the idea of blowing up a high-profile target named after President John F Kennedy, whose assassination traumatized a generation of Americans. “Any time you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States,” he allegedly told the informant. “They love John F Kennedy. If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It’s like you kill the man twice.”

The four alleged plotters are all said to espouse “fundamentalist Islamic beliefs of a violent nature”, according to Mark Mershon, the assistant director of the FBI field office in New York. However, they appear to have been operating independently and had no known connection to al Qaeda.

The men had sought support and financing from a radical Muslim organization in the Caribbean known as Jamaat al Muslmeen, which operates in Trinidad and Tobago. It once staged a bloody but unsuccessful coup in Trinidad, and is now locally known as a street gang involved in the drug trade.

Although Mr Defreitas had travelled several times with his alleged accomplices to Guyana and Trinidad, and had recently begun wearing traditional Muslim dress and calling himself Mohammed, his arrest on terrorism charges surprised a number of people he has known over the years.

According to the New York Times, Mr Defreitas had been known by various people as a polite tenant who always paid his rent on time, a hard-working but semi-literate man whose brother had to fill out job applications for him, and a migrant who had initially enthusiastically embraced American culture, especially jazz music.