New York police have arrested two North African-born men who planned to attack synagogues, kill Jews and blow up the Empire State Building, Reuters reported.
The two are 26-year-old Algerian Ahmed Ferhani and 20-year-old Mohamed Mamdouh, a Moroccan-born U.S. citizen. Reuters said they were arrested in a sting operation after they bought three pistols, ammunition and an inert grenade from an undercover officer. The operation lasted seven months.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said during a news conference on Thursday that “In addition to discussing the bombing of synagogues ‘one after another,’ Ferhani also expressed interest in bombing the Empire State Building.”
Kelly added that the two had discussed growing beards and curls to disguise themselves as Hasidic Jews.
Despite the proximity of the arrests to the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. forces, Kelly said that the plot began months before bin Laden was killed. He noted that “We established no direct ties between them and Al-Qaeda or other operational terrorist groups,” and called the suspects “lone wolves.”
Reuters noted that the arrests foiled the 13th planned attack by Islamist militants on New York City since the September 11 terror attacks.
The two men have been charged under state terrorism statutes. If convicted they will face up to life in prison. They were also charged with hate crimes. They were ordered detained by a Manhattan criminal court judge at a hearing on Thursday, reported Reuters.