The arrest of four alleged terrorism plotters in the Riverdale section of New York City was the culmination of a painstaking 10-month FBI investigation. Each of the four men is charged with one count of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the U.S., which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison, and one count of conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison. According to officials in the FBI and New York City, here's how the plot unfolded and unraveled.
In June 2008, James Cromitie, a.k.a. Abdul Rahman, allegedly told an FBI informant in Newburgh, N.Y., that he wanted to join the jihad, or holy war, and strike a target in the U.S. Cromitie, whose parents had lived in Afghanistan, claimed he was angry about the war there; the U.S. military, he told the informant, was killing many Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He talked about possibly traveling to Afghanistan to become a "martyr" and go to paradise. He added that he was interested in doing "something to America." (See pictures of the life of Osama bin Laden.)
In July 2008, Cromitie and the FBI informant allegedly discussed the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed. When the informant claimed a connection to this group, Cromitie supposedly said he'd like to join. (Read about the activities of Jaish-e-Mohammed.)
In October 2008, the informant began a series of meetings with Cromitie at a Newburgh house fitted with FBI video and bugging equipment. At meetings there, according to official briefings, Cromitie was joined by David Williams (a.k.a. Daoud), Onta Williams (a.k.a. Hamza) and Laguerre Payen (a.k.a. Amin). The four men, all former convicts, were said to have talked about attacking targets in New York, including a synagogue in the Bronx and military aircraft at the Air National Guard Base at Stewart International Airport, which is west of Newburgh. Cromitie then allegedly asked the informant to procure surface-to-air missiles and explosives to enable the attacks. The informant responded that he could provide Cromitie with C-4 plastic explosives.
In April 2009, according to government officials, the four conspirators selected the synagogue and a Jewish community center they intended to target, and conducted surveillance at the Air National Guard Base; they supposedly took pictures of the aircraft. In late April 2009, Cromitie and Williams were said to have bought a 9-mm semiautomatic pistol. According to the U.S., they identified locations from which to attack the aircraft with missiles.
In early May 2009, Cromitie, Williams and Payen traveled with the FBI informant to Connecticut, to obtain what the plotters believed were a surface-to-air guided missile system and three explosive devices, each containing 30 lb. of C-4. The informant allegedly told them he got the missile and explosives from Jaish-e-Mohammed. The three plotters were then said to have taken the devices back to Newburgh, where two days later, all four plotters met to inspect the devices and discuss logistics.
On May 20, the FBI said the plotters planted the "bombs" outside the Riverdale Temple and Riverdale Jewish Center. Around 9 p.m., the FBI and the New York City Police Department swept in to arrest the plotters.