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Thursday, May 21, 2009
 

Terror Plot Targeted Newburgh Air Base Where High-Value Al Qaeda Detainees Landed

By J.M. Berger
INTELWIRE.com


An Air Force based that was allegedly targeted by terrorists in Newburgh, New York, was used as a landing site to transport high-value Al Qaeda detainees into U.S. custody.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the Justice Department, four Newburgh Muslims were planning to use "surface-to-air missile system to destroy military aircraft at the New York Air National Guard Base located at Stewart Airport in Newburgh, New York."

That air base was used in August and October of 1998 to receive two key operatives in the 1998 East African Embassy Bombings case -- Al Qaeda members Khalfan Khamis Mohamed and Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-'Owhali, according to trial testimony in the landmark case, U.S. v. Bin Laden.

After landing at the base in Stewart, the terrorists were transported into the custody of the Justice Department's Southern District of New York where they stood trial.

Ahmed Ghailani, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, is also accused in the 1998 bombing plot against U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. This week, Ghailani was indicted in the Southern District of New York and is expected to be transferred into Justice Department custody.

It is not known exactly when or how Ghailani will be transported to U.S. soil or whether Stewart Air Base would have been one of his stops. Stewart Air Base is also used "to transport military supplies and personnel to the U.S. Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan," according to the Justice Department.

Nothing in the complaint suggests the four suspects -- James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen -- were aware that the base had been used in the past to transport arrested Al Qaeda members.

Nevertheless, the nexus of events points to the potential significance of even small, home-grown terrorist plots, while highlighting some of the challenges faced in dealing with Al Qaeda suspects on U.S. soil.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.

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