Two New Jersey men were arrested late Saturday at JFK Airport as they prepared to head to Somalia to join up with the radical Islamic group Al Shabaab and kill American troops overseas, the FBI announced Sunday.
Mahmood Alessa, 20, of North Bergen, N.J. and Carlos Eduardo Almonte, 24, of Elmwood Park, N.J. had gone to JFK to take take separate flights to Egypt, with the final destination being Somalia, the FBI said.
Authorities said a law enforcement team was at the airport, armed with arrest warrants, and waiting for the men. The arrest warrants were issued by a U.S. District Court judge in Newark.
The men, according to the FBI, listened to recordings of Anwar al-Awlaki, the spiritual Islamic leader who has reportedly has had many followers including the officer responsible for the Ft. Hood shootings.
According to a complaint unsealed Sunday, the FBI had received a tip about the men in October 2006, and a New York Police Intelligence Division officer recorded numerous meetings and conversations in which they discussed saving thousands of dollars, physically conditioning themselves, engaging in paintball and other tactical training, acquiring military gear and apparel for use overseas, and purchasing airline tickets to Egypt with the intent to then travel to Somalia, the FBI said.
In one conversation last Nov. 29, the FBI said Alessa said to Almonte and an undercover informant: “They only fear you when you have a gun and when you — when you start killing them, and when you — when you take their head, and you go like this, and you behead it on camera . . . We’ll start doing killing here, if I can’t do it over there [Italics indicate translation].”
The next day, Alessa stated to the UC: “I leave this time, God Willing, I never come back. I’ll never see this crap hole. Only way I would come back here is if I was in the land of jihad and the leader ordered me to come back here and do something here. Ah, I love that.”
Last month, Almonte allegedly expressed pleasure that there would soon be American troops in Somalia because it would not as gratifying as to kill only Africans, the FBI said.
“When Alessa and Almonte schemed to engage in violent jihad, we were listening, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman of New Jersey said in a statement. ” When they attempted to leave the country, we were waiting. We will continue to be vigilant and to protect against terrorism no matter where its adherents intend to do harm.”
Michael Ward, head of the FBI Newark office, said in a statement: ” Even when individuals plan to support terrorist activity abroad, we remain concerned that once they reach their foreign destinations they may be redirected against targets back home, as we’ve seen in the past. We are also concerned that should they remain undetected and fail in their foreign aspirations that they might strike domestically, as was discussed as a possibility in this case.”