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4 arrested for plot to blast NYC synagogues

FOUR men arrested after planting what they thought were explosives near two New York synagogues and plotting to shoot down a military plane were bent on carrying out a holy war against the United States, authorities said yesterday.

The suspects were arrested on Wednesday night, shortly after placing a 17-kilogram device they thought was an explosive in the trunk of a car outside the Riverdale Temple and two mock bombs in the backseat of a car outside the Riverdale Jewish Center, another synagogue a few blocks away, authorities said.

Police blocked their escape with an 18-wheel truck, smashing their tinted SUV windows and apprehending the unarmed suspects.

Outside Riverdale Temple in the Bronx, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly quoted one of the men as saying, "If Jews were killed in this attack ... that would be all right."

James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh, New York, were charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the US and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles, the US attorney's office said.

"They stated that they wanted to commit jihad," Kelly said. "They were disturbed about what happened in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed." Kelly said he believed the men knew each other from prison.

An official said three of the men are converts to Islam. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss the investigation.

Acting US Attorney Lev L. Dassin said the defendants planned to detonate a car with plastic explosives to destroy the synagogues.


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