Clerk called ‘unsung hero’ in downfall of terror plot

Published: May 9, 2007 | 6179th good news item since 2003

Ever since Sept. 11, U.S. authorities have asked the public to be vigilant, urging, “If you see something, say something.”

In January 2006, a store clerk in New Jersey saw something.

A group of men had brought him a video showing them firing assault weapons and chanting, “God is Great!” in Arabic. They wanted him to transfer the footage onto a DVD.

So he said something, calling the Mount Laurel Police Department, who in turn contacted the FBI.

And thus began the downfall of one of the most thoroughly infiltrated and documented group of terrorism suspects in recent history – six men from Yugoslavia and the Middle East who were charged Tuesday with plotting to slaughter scores of American soldiers at Fort Dix and perhaps other military installations in the Northeast.

FBI agent J.P. Weis saluted the unidentified Mount Laurel store clerk as the “unsung hero” of the case.

“That’s why we’re here today – because of the courage and heroism of that individual,” the FBI agent said.

The suspects’ images and words were captured on more than 50 audio and video recordings. Their comings and goings were recorded by law enforcement agents who monitored the alleged plot for 15 months, hoping more terror ties would become apparent.

The defendants, all men in their 20s, include a pizza deliveryman suspected of using his job to scout out Fort Dix. Their goal was “to kill as many American soldiers as possible” in attacks with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and guns, prosecutors said.

“Today we dodged a bullet. In fact, when you look at the type of weapons that this group was trying to purchase, we may have dodged a lot of bullets,” Weis said. “We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that.”

Authorities said there was no direct evidence connecting the men to any international terror organizations such as al-Qaida. But several of them said they were ready to kill and die “in the name of Allah,” according to court papers.

The six men – five of whom lived in Cherry Hill, a Philadelphia suburb about 20 miles from Fort Dix – were arrested Monday night while trying to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons from an FBI informant, authorities said.

“This is what law enforcement is supposed to do in the post-9/11 era – stay one step ahead of those who are attempting to cause harm to innocent American citizens,” U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said.

Published in Heroes
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