Fort Dix Terrorist Plot
A terrorist plot on Fort Dix has been thwarted, AP reports.
Six men were planning to attack the Fort Dix Army base and “kill as many soldiers as possible,” federal authorities said Tuesday.
The men, Yugoslav nationals, were arrested early Tuesday, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
Like Steven Taylor, my initial take is that these are just some yahoos rather than part of something truly dangerous.
Indeed, Fort Dix strikes me as a strange target, given that it’s not exactly the nerve center of the American defense grid. According to their Web site, here’s what they have:
- 1079th Garrison Support Unit
- Fort Dix NCO Academy
- Air Mobility Warfare Center
- American Red Cross
- Kelley Reserve Center
- Liberty Brigade ROTC
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Headquarters New Jersey Army & Air National Guard
- U.S. Coast Guard, Atlantic Strike Team
- New Jersey Youth Challenge Program
- U.S. MEPCOM Fort Dix
- Navy Expeditionary Combat Command
- Joint Personal Property Shipping Office
We’ll learn more soon, I imagine, as to who these men are, what their motivations were, and how serious the threat was. One thing we know for sure, though: This proves conclusively that we need to keep Eastern European immigrants out of the country.
UPDATE: The plot thickens. An updated version of the AP story at YahooNews reports that, “four of the men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one in Jordan and one in Turkey. Five of them lived in Cherry Hill, 10 miles east of Philadelphia and 20 miles southwest of Fort Dix.” Given that Muslim Bosnia was part of “the former Yugoslavia,” — and that it would seem unlikely that four Slovenians or Orthodox Serbs would join up with two Muslims — we’re likely dealing with Islamists. That does not, of course, preclude their simply being nuts.
Commenter legion points to a CNN story saying these men were “either U.S. citizens or living illegally in the United States.” Via Mexico, no doubt.
Tony Snow tells the press: “They are not charged with being members of an international terrorism organization. At least at this point, there is no evidence that they received direction from international terror organizations. However, their involvement in weapons training, operational surveillance and discussions about killing American military personnel warranted a strong law enforcement response.”
Yeah, I’d say so.
Also, here’s a clue as to “why Ft. Dix?”
Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists. In 1999, it sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
After that war, refugees were allowed to return to the U.N.-run province of Kosovo in Serbia or to seek permanent residency in the United States. The U.N. Security Council is considering whether to approve a plan to grant Kosovo independence from Serbia under the supervision of the European Union and the United States.
UPDATE: Rusty Shackleford believes discussions of whether these men are part of a formal network “misses the point of al Qaeda 3.0. Anyone can be ‘al Qaeda’ now just by claiming to be, that’s the nature of a non-hierarchical network.”
There’s something to that, to be sure. Still, for a concept to have any use as a heuristic, it needs to have a meaningful parameters. It remains to be seen whether these guys turn out to be serious terrorists in any significant sense.
UPDATE: The federal prosecutors seem to think they are.
Officials said the group had a collection of jihadist videos, including video of the last will and testament of two of the 19 hijackers from the September 11, 2001, attacks and video of Osama bin Laden calling Muslims to jihad. The men also showed videos to each other of killings of U.S. military personnel around the world, officials said. “They watched the blowing off of the arm of a United States Marine, and the room burst out into laughter,” Christie said.
The men are believed to have been “inspired” by international terrorist groups, but not directly linked to a specific organization, he said.
He said defendant Shain Duka was heard on tape saying, “We can do a lot of damage with seven people. We can do big things.”
A law enforcement source told CNN the group played paintball and test fired weapons as part of their training. “These guys were clearly committed to the task they had set before them,” Fran Townsend, the White House’s homeland security adviser, told CNN.
Their goal was to figure out how to kill as many American soldiers as possible, [New Jersey U.S. Attorney Christopher J.] Christie said. The men had surveyed a number of bases but settled on Fort Dix because one of the defendants said he knew the base “like the back of his hand” because he had delivered pizza there, Christie said. “They were at the point where they wanted to obtain the automatic weapons that would be the final piece in their plan… to create carnage at Fort Dix,” Christie said. “I think it could have been a disaster,” he said. “These people were ready for martyrdom.”
Given that they were attacking an Army base, they’d have gotten that for sure.