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"Paintball Terrorists" May Get Life

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    New Jersey Men Convicted of Plot to Attack Fort Dix By Jef Feeley and Fred Cusick December 22, 2008 Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Five men, described by prosecutors
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 1, 2009
      New Jersey Men Convicted of Plot to Attack Fort Dix
      By Jef Feeley and Fred Cusick
      December 22, 2008

      Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Five men, described by prosecutors as "radical
      Islamists," were convicted of conspiring to kill American soldiers at
      the Fort Dix Army base in New Jersey.

      A federal jury in Camden, New Jersey, today found Mohamad Shnewer,
      Dritan Duka, Shain Duka, Eljvir Duka and Serdar Tatar guilty of
      conspiracy and weapons charges. Each faces a possible sentence of
      life in prison. Prosecutors contended the Muslim immigrants ecame
      friends in high school in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and later formed a
      domestic terror cell.

      Arriving at the verdict was "one of the most difficult things that we
      have had to do," the jury, which deliberated more than five days,
      said in a statement read in court by the judge. "We have not reached
      our conclusion lightly."

      The men, ages 23 to 30, were acquitted of attempted murder charges.
      They were arrested in May 2007 after a 15-month probe by the Federal
      Bureau of Investigation concluded they had scouted military
      installations such as Fort Dix and Dover Air Force Base in Delaware,
      negotiated to buy M-16 and AK-47 assault rifles, trained for their
      mission and repeatedly watched videos of al-Qaeda attacks and

      Prosecutors contended the friends shared radical religious beliefs
      and sought to punish the U.S. military for operations in Iraq and
      Afghanistan. Two informants secretly taped meetings where the alleged
      plot took shape, according to testimony.

      `Serious Harm'

      Ralph Marra, the acting U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, said he
      was "very gratified" by today's verdict. It showed the
      defendants "had the intent and had done the preparation to do serious
      harm" to members of the U.S. military, Marra said at a news

      The government learned of the impeding attacks after the group asked
      a Circuit City Stores Inc. employee to transfer a video of them
      firing weapons and shouting "Allah Akbar" to a DVD. The phrase is
      Arabic for "God is great." The employee tipped off FBI agents about
      the video.

      Prosecutors will be seeking the maximum penalty of life in prison for
      the conspiracy convictions, Marra said. U.S. District Judge Robert
      Kugler is scheduled to sentence the men in April. Lawyers for the men
      said they are considering appeals.

      "The most I could say is, I wish the outcome had been different,"
      Rocco Cipparone Jr., Schnewer's defense attorney, told reporters
      after the verdict.

      `Heavy Concentration'

      The Duka brothers -- Dritan, 30, Shain, 27, and Eljivir, 25 -- are
      ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia who operated roofing
      businesses in Cherry Hill. Shnewer, 23, who was born in Jordan, was a
      taxi driver in nearby Philadelphia while Tatar, 25, originally from
      Turkey, worked at a convenience store in the city.

      Schnewer's mother, Faten Schnewer, said "the only reason" the men
      were convicted was because they are Muslims. "I'm sure 100 percent,"
      she told reporters. Marra denied that anti-Muslim prejudice played a
      role. "I can't accept that," he said.

      Shnewer allegedly told one of the government informants that he
      targeted Fort Dix, located about 20 miles from the state capital in
      Trenton, because he wanted "to hit a heavy concentration of
      soldiers," according to court filings.

      The group trained for the attacks by visiting paintball facilities in
      Pennsylvania's Pocono mountains, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael
      Hammer told jurors in closing arguments.

      "For others, paintball might be simple recreation," Hammer said. For
      members of the group, "it was serious training," he said.

      `Conversational Ramblings'

      Defense attorneys dismissed the government's evidence that the group
      discussed attacking military facilities as "conversational ramblings"
      of young men.

      "Much of the evidence in this case comes from the fantasy world" of
      Shnewer and other members of the group, said Michael Huff, an
      attorney for Dritan Duka.

      Cipparone targeted government informant Mahmoud Omar, a convicted
      felon paid almost $240,000 by the FBI to infiltrate the group, as the
      instigator of the men's jihadist leanings.

      Omar "pushed and pushed" Shnewer to make incriminating comments about
      attacking U.S. bases, Cipparone told jurors. Still, "Omar the
      manipulator" wasn't able to get Shnewer or the others to carry out
      the attacks, he said.

      The case is USA v. Dritan Duka, 07-m-2046, U.S. District Court,
      District of New Jersey (Camden).

      To contact the reporters on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington,
      Delaware, at jfeeley@...; Fred Cusick in Camden, New
      Jersey, at fqsick@....



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