Foiling Attack at Fort Dix Started with Tip from Retail Employee

Request to dub a videotape at Circuit City led to sting operation on terror cell


FORT DIX, N.J. -- One drove a cab, three were roofers. The others worked at a 7-Eleven and a supermarket. Their alleged plot to attack Fort Dix was foiled by another blue-collar worker: a store clerk who had been asked to dub a videotape of the men to DVD.

That tip led to the arrest Tuesday of six foreign-born Muslims on charges of plotting an armed attack on Fort Dix with the objective of killing "as many American soldiers as possible."

The unidentified clerk is being credited with tipping off authorities in January 2006 after one of the suspects asked him to transfer a video to DVD that showed 10 men shooting weapons at a firing range and calling for jihad, prosecutors said.

"If we didn't get that tip," said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie, "I couldn't be sure what would happen." FBI agent J.P. Weis called the clerk the "unsung hero" of the case.

A spokeswoman for Circuit City on Wednesday said the clerk was an employee at their Mount Laurel store. Spokeswoman Jackie Foreman said the store is not releasing the employee's name but confirmed the person still works for the company.

She referred all other questions to law enforcement authorities.

Authorities said there was no direct evidence connecting the six arrested men to any international terror organizations such as al-Qaida. But several of them had said they were ready to kill and die "in the name of Allah," prosecutors said in court papers.

Weis said the U.S. is seeing a "brand-new form of terrorism," involving smaller, more loosely defined groups that may not be connected to al-Qaida but are inspired by its ideology.

"These homegrown terrorists can prove to be as dangerous as any known group, if not more so. They operate under the radar," Weis said.

Four of the arrested men were born in the former Yugoslavia, one was born in Jordan and one came from Turkey, authorities said. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in this country permanently; and the sixth is a U.S. citizen.

The six - Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 22; Dritan "Anthony" or "Tony" Duka, 28; Shain Duka, 26; Eljvir "Elvis" Duka, 23; Serdar Tatar, 23; and Agron Abdullahu, 24 - were ordered held without bail for a hearing Friday.

Five were charged with conspiracy to kill U.S. military personnel; the sixth, Abdullahu, was charged with aiding and abetting illegal immigrants in obtaining weapons.

One of the suspects, Tatar, worked at his father's pizzeria - Super Mario's Restaurant - in Cookstown and made deliveries to the base, using the opportunity to scout out Fort Dix for an attack, authorities said.

"Clearly, one of the guys had an intimate knowledge of the base from having been there delivering pizzas," Christie said.

Tatar's father, Muslim Tatar, 54, said the accusations against his son were hard to accept.

"He is not a terrorist. I am not a terrorist," he told The Star-Ledger of Newark.

The elder Tatar told ABCNews he had gotten no indication his son harbored a deep hatred of the United States.

"I came here from Turkey in 1992, and this is my country. I love this country," Muslim Tatar told ABC.

The group often watched terror training videos, clips featuring Osama bin Laden, a tape containing the last will and testament of some of the Sept. 11 hijackers, and tapes of armed attacks on U.S. military personnel, authorities said.

The men trained by playing paintball in the woods in New Jersey and taking target practice at a firing range in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains, where they had rented a house, authorities said.

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