Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., and New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, joined by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, today announced charges against two men in connection with a terror plot targeting New York synagogues. AHMED FERHANI, 26, and MOHAMED MAMDOUH, 20, are charged with Conspiracy in the Second Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, Conspiracy in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree as a Crime of Terrorism and Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the First Degree as a Crime of Terrorism. The conspiracy charge relates to a planned terrorist arson attack, and is an A-1 Felony, carrying with it a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the District Attorney, FERHANI and MAMDOUH systematically engaged in conversations with an undercover NYPD Officer, making clear his desire to obtain weapons and training to engage in terrorist activities in New York City. Following an eight-month undercover operation, FERHANI and MAMDOUH were arrested on May 11, 2011, after purchasing two operable Browning semi-automatic pistols, one operable Smith and Wesson revolver, ammunition, and one inert grenade. During the course of the investigation, FERHANI was recorded discussing his goal of providing financial support for the Palestinian cause in Gaza, and possibly traveling to Gaza to join the fight against Israel and to kill Israeli soldiers. FERHANI repeatedly expressed his belief in violent “Jihad.”
During the course of the investigation, FERHANI introduced the undercover to MAMDOUH, an immigrant from Morocco. Over time, FERHANI began to express more immediate violent goals within New York City generally, and Manhattan specifically. In April 2011, FERHANI first asked the undercover whether he would join him in a plan to bomb a synagogue. The undercover agreed that he would, and from that date on, FERHANI began to fine-tune his plan. FERHANI and MAMDOUH discussed learning to make bombs and planned visits to Manhattan’s largest synagogues, intending to disguise themselves as Jewish worshippers, attend services at a synagogue and, while pretending to pray, leave a bomb in the synagogue.
During the conversations recorded during the operation, FERHANI discussed, among other things, buying a grenade to throw into a synagogue, buying a gun with a silencer, and buying multiple guns to use as part of the plan in case they were caught. He discussed learning to build bombs so he could blow up a synagogue, and proposed blowing up an empty synagogue. On other occasions, FERHANI and MAMDOUH discussed wanting to blow up a synagogue with Jews or Zionists inside, as well as a church in Queens.
“The defendants plotted and took concrete steps to bomb synagogues and kill Jewish New Yorkers as an act of terrorism,” said District Attorney Vance. “The NYPD identified this growing threat and, with prosecutors from the Manhattan DA’s Office, ran a successful undercover operation that stopped these men before they could execute their violent plan. Our top priority in law enforcement is keeping New York safe through effective prevention and enforcement, and today we achieved that goal.”
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said: “The successful raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was a critically important victory in our nation’s war against terrorism, and it was a testament to the exceptional work done by our military and intelligence communities. But we know that, as an international symbol of freedom and liberty, New York City is and will always be a target. For that reason, we must always be on guard to protect the people of this city. Keeping New Yorkers safe is my highest priority, and I commend the Police Department and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for their efforts in this case. These arrests are the latest evidence of their outstanding work, and they should serve as a warning sign to other aspiring terrorists.”
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said: “I want to commend NYPD Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence David Cohen and his team for their outstanding work in this case. Dealing with guns and suspects is always a dangerous enterprise, as illustrated last night in an unrelated undercover gun trafficking case. I also want to thank District Attorney Vance and his outstanding team, who worked so hard with us to bring these dangerous individuals to justice. As for our undercover officers, obviously they cannot be identified. I can say, however, that NYPD undercover officers were instrumental in thwarting not only this plot and the one to bomb Herald Square, but also in identifying Carlos Almonte and Mohamed Alessa, who were arrested at Kennedy Airport last year en route to Somalia for terrorist training. While there are no specific plots targeting New York City in the wake of Bin Laden’s death, this latest case reminds us that we must remain vigilant every day using officers and detectives like those who helped bring this case to a safe and successful conclusion.”
• Conspiracy in the Second Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, a class A-1 felony, one count
• Conspiracy in the Second Degree as a Hate Crime, a class B felony, one count
• Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, a class B violent felony, one count
• Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the First Degree as a Crime of Terrorism, a class B violent felony, one count
A class A-1 felony is punishable by up life in prison without parole and a class B felony is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.