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FBI: Men Living Locally Plotted To Attack Fort Dix

Authorities: Cell Also Thought About Targeting Philadelphia Spots

POSTED: 6:41 am EDT May 8, 2007
UPDATED: 8:27 pm EDT May 8, 2007

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A tip helped authorities arrest six men in New Jersey Monday night in connection with an apparent terror cell operation that planned to kill soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J.

Investigators said the men planned to use AK-47s to storm Fort Dix and open fire on soldiers and civilians stationed at the New Jersey base, noting that other military locations were scouted by the terrorist cell.

Authorities Release Information On Suspects


  • Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, of Cherry Hill

  • Shnewer was born in Jordan, is a U.S. citizen and is employed as a taxi driver in Philadelphia.

  • Eljvir Duka, 23, of Cherry Hill

  • Eljvir Duka, also known as Elvis Duka or Sulayman, was born in the former Yugoslavia and is illegally residing in the U.S., operating businesses known as Qadr. Inc., Colonial Roofing and National Roofing, all of which list business addresses the same as his residence.

  • Dritan Duka, 28, of Cherry Hill

  • Dritan Duke, also known as Distan Duka, Anthony Duka or Tony Duka, was also born in the former Yugoslavia and is living in the country illegally. He is Eljvir and Shain Duka's brother.

  • Shain Duka, 26, of Cherry Hill

  • Shain Duka lives with his two brothers listed above and is also known as Shaheen. Like his brothers, he is an ethnic Albanian and was born in the former Yugoslavia. He is illegally living in the U.S. and operates the roofing businesses with his brothers.

  • Serdar Tatar, 23, of Philadelphia

  • Tatar was born in Turkey, but is a legal U.S. resident. His last known employment was at a 7-Eleven convenience store in Philadelphia.

  • Agron Abdullahu, 23, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County

  • Abdullahu was born in the former Yugoslavia and is living in the U.S. legally. He is employed at a Shop-Rite Supermarket and is an ethnic Albania who was born in the former Yugoslavia.

    Alleged Terror Plot

    Five suspects were charged with plotting to kill as many solders as possible in an armed assault except for Abdullahu, who was charged only with aiding and abetting the Duka brothers' illegal possession of weapons, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

    Four Suspects Live In Cherry Hill

    Dozens of FBI agents raided 1016 Tampa Ave. Monday night, the Cherry Hill home of terror suspect Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer.

    "The streets (were) blocked off with the Suburbans, (authorities were) going into the house with their guns drawn, taking photographs and I guess evidence from the house," neighbor Don Bauer said.

    At the same time, other federal agents raided a home in the Candlewyck section of Cherry Hill. Authorities said the three Duka brothers and other family members lived there. The men listed the address as the location of their roofing businesses.

    "They're not unfriendly, but they're not particularly, you know, outgoing. I wave hello, and that's about it," neighbor Greg Hilbert said.

    Video Clerk Alerts Police

    Investigators said the arrests are the result of a tip to the FBI and use of an informant to track the suspects.

    Authorities said they were alerted in January 2006 after the terror suspects traveled to the Poconos for a training exercise where they practiced firing automatic weapons, investigators said.

    On Monday night, Dritan Duka and Shain Duka were arrested at a Cherry Hill residence as they tried to purchase AK-47s and M-16s from an FBI informant, according to authorities.

    The investigation began on Jan. 31, 2006, after the FBI received a video recording showing the six suspects and four other men firing assault weapons at a Poconos shooting range. The tape showed them calling for jihad and shouting "God is great!" in Arabic, according to a U.S. Department of Justice news release.

    One of the suspects took the tape to a New Jersey store to have it converted into training DVDs, but a store employee reported the tape's content to authorities, which set off a full-scale investigation.

    "That local store clerk, having viewed the video of these people in military garb yelling out jihadist statements and shooting semiautomatic weapons, brought his attention to the fact there could be a problem," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie.

    According to investigators, the informant recorded several key conversations over the course of a few months, including one from August 2006, where Shnewer described his and the group's intentions in an attack at Fort Dix:

    "My intent is to hit a heavy concentration of soldiers ... This is exactly what we are looking for. You hit four, five or six Humvees and light the whole place [up] and retreat completely without any losses."

    Pizza Delivery Man Allegedly Scoped Out Fort Dix

    Authorities said the Duka brothers claimed to have a map of Fort Dix, with one claiming he knew the base "like the back of his hand." That man was Serdar Tatar.

    Neighbor Stacie Gondellena not only witnessed the arrest of her neighbor, a man federal investigators said is one of the creators of a plot to attack soldiers and civilians at Fort Dix, she helped federal investigators break through the door of Tatar’s apartment across the hall.

    “They asked me do you have a hammer I see,” Stacie Gondellena said. “I was so scared, did not sleep all night.”

    Gondellena said Tatar and his wife have lived across the hall for about a year.

    She said she's stunned he'd be accused of trying to kill one person let alone more than 100 soldiers.

    “I can't believe, they very nice to me, I nice to them,” Gondellena said.

    NBC10 tried to speak with Tatar’s wife but she refused to comment.

    Over the phone Tatar’s family members, who wouldn't identify themselves, said Tatar is not a terrorist. But federal investigators said he was intent on harming U.S. soldiers and according to court records was, “doing it in the name of Allah.”

    Kalin Volante, 23, said she worked at the Super Mario Pizza, in Cookstown, N.J. for five months with suspected terrorist Tatar.

    “He was OK, accept for his attitude, and he was very religious, into his religion a lot," Volante said.

    She said Tatar talked down to woman.

    “He thought he was so much better than everyone and thought it owned the world pretty much,” Volante said.

    Prosecutors said Tatar, who worked at his father's pizza shop, delivered pizza to Fort Dix and used that opportunity to scout out the military facility.

    Investigators said the plan was to storm Fort Dix and kill as many soldiers as possible.

    The chef of the pizza shop told reporters that Tatar’s arrest took the suspect’s father by surprise.

    He said the suspect’s father was distraught and he was speaking with his attorneys.

    Neighbors said Tatar’s father recently purchased a home about a block away from his pizza shop.

    "I saw him all the time,” Kelvin Barnett, Tatar father's neighbor, said. “He lived next door to me. He was a pretty cool guy."

    Fort Dix Was Not Only Possible Target

    Before deciding to target Fort Dix, investigators said the group discussed targeting numerous other sites like Dover Air Base in Delaware, Fort Monmouth, a federal building and Coast Guard station in Philadelphia, Christie said.

    Fort Dix is a Reserve training center, but also is home to active units, some of which focus on counter-terrorism.

    Supermarket Worker Charged With Aiding Plotters

    Prosecutors said Agron Abdullahu, 24, worked at Shop Rite supermarket.

    He was arrested at his Buena Vista Township home on Cains Mill Road Monday night. He is charged with helping three of the suspects illegally obtain weapons, and if convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison

    Abdullahu, an ethnic Albanian born in the former Yugoslavia, is legally in the United States. He is charged with aiding and abetting the three Duka brothers' illegal possession of weapons.

    "I'm totally shocked that it's this close to my house, but I'm not shocked. It could be anybody these days," neighbor Ken Rafter said.

    No one answered the door at Abdullahu's home Tuesday. Authorities said Abdullahu was among those seen firing assault weapons and calling for a holy war on the video that initially prompted the federal investigation. He and others allegedly kept firearms for the Duka brothers.

    Court documents also show Abdullahu was believed to be a sniper in Kosovo and investigators saw him in the Poconos last February, allegedly teaching several people where to place a shotgun when firing it.

    Men Plotted Attack In Poconos

    Gouldsboro, Pa. is a rural community and few if any of the residents there would have believed six men allegedly plotted a terror attack there.

    Shock and disbelief was pouring through the rural community of the Big Bass Lake Estates in Gouldsboro - where officials said six men charged in the alleged terror plot against Fort Dix - trained and stayed.

    According to court documents, the suspects rented a home inside the gated development back in February, where they planned their mission by watching videos of U.S. military vehicles being destroyed in attacks.

    The estate sits just a few miles from a remote shooting range where investigators said the men trained, practicing with numerous weapons including handguns and automatic rifles and firing off some 400 rounds each.

    Steve Feszach and Jude Pembelton are regulars at the firing range. They were out Tuesday as news of the alleged terror plot and its ties to the Poconos spread.

    Feszach said it was disturbing to know people would come into his area and do something like that.

    The suspects, who authorities said wanted to kill as many Fort Dix soldiers as possible, where arrested Monday night after being busted for trying to get a video they had taken of themselves at the firing range made into a DVD.

    Residents like Ed Wilson said they will never look at their quaint community the same way again.

    “After 9-11 my wife said things will never be the same, and she was right,” he said.

    Fort Dix Security

    Security at Fort Dix remained stringent in the wake of the arrests, according to a spokesman for the Fort Dix base.

    The Fort Dix and McGuire Air Force Base law enforcement community partnered with the FBI and local communities during the lengthy investigation to ensure the safety of its installation, according to a Fort Dix news release.

    Mobilization and training continue as scheduled at Fort Dix, which has mobilized and demobilized more than 95,000 Soldiers since Sept. 11.

    Those passing through checkpoints onto Fort Dix will notice more frequent vehicle searches and strict adherence to a 100 percent ID check, which may slow traffic, an official at the base said.


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