Riverdale Temple, Bronx, NY
Riverdale Temple, Bronx, NYIsrael news photo: courtesy of Riverdale Temp

Four would-be Bronx synagogue bombers prayed for success before setting out on their murderous mission, according to U.S. prosecutors.

The four, 44-year-old James Cromitie, 34-year-old Onta Williams, 29-year-old David Williams and 28-year-old Laguerre Payen, were charged with conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and attempting to use missiles to kill U.S. officers and employees.

In his opening statement to the Manhattan Federal Court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Hickey told the jury, “They were prepared to go all the way through with their destructive and murderous plan,” which included shooting down military planes.

The prosecution said it would show the jury a video of the defendants praying for success prior to setting out to attack two New York synagogues in May 2009.

The four -- three of whom were U.S. citizens and one a Haitian immigrant -- were originally approached by FBI informant Shahed Hussain after he heard them discussing their hatred of Jews and a desire to hurt Americans. The sentiment apparently was ignited by U.S. actions in the Middle East.

Hussain, known to the group as “Maqsood,” provided the would-be bombers with non-working explosives and stinger missiles, after telling them he was a member of a Pakistani terrorist organization and offering to fund their efforts and supply the materials.

The informant also secretly videotaped his conversations with the suspects.

Cromitie told Hussain on the tape that “the best target in New York had already been hit” – an apparent reference to the World Trade Center that was destroyed during the 9/11 attack on New York by al-Qaeda terrorists in 2001. He added that he would like to hit another target, like the GeorgeWashingtonBridge, a large military transport plane, or a synagogue.

“Above all, Cromitie said he wanted to hit a synagogue,” Hickey said.

Attorney Vincent Briccetti, in defending Cromitie, said his client had been entrapped by Hussain, a convicted felon whom he called a “master manipulator.”

The four have pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted, they could be sentenced to prison terms of 25 years to life.

Bronx Synagogues to Receive Future Protection
The two synagogues targeted by the would-be terrorists – the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Center – are on a list of 80 high-risk groups set to receive an average of $73,000 each to fortify their buildings against terror attacks. The funds are to be distributed before the November elections.

The Department of Homeland Security last month allocated more than $5.8 million in federal funding to beef up the protection of the buildings with security cameras, barricades and emergency release doors.

U.S. Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn and Queens, NY) announced at a July news conference held at Manhattan’s Ramaz School, a modern Orthodox day school also on the list to receive funds, “Everybody is entitled to have their security needs met.” The list includes a total of 36 religious schools, 25 synagogues, 12 community centers, six hospitals and a church. Specific details were not released due to security concerns.