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


"We believe they are their own cell," said Christie. "They are inspired by international terror organizations. I believe they saw themselves as part of that."

Fort Dix last was in the international spotlight in 1999, when it sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

In addition to plotting the attack on Fort Dix, the defendants spoke of assaulting a Navy installation in Philadelphia during the annual Army-Navy football game and conducted surveillance at other military installations in the region, prosecutors said.

After the video clerk's tip, investigators said they infiltrated the group with two informants and bided their time while they secretly recorded the defendants.

The six were arrested Monday night trying to buy AK-47 assault weapons, M-16s and other weapons from an FBI informant, authorities said. It was not clear when the alleged attack was to take place.

"We had a group that was forming a platoon to take on an army. They identified their target, they did their reconnaissance. They had maps. And they were in the process of buying weapons. Luckily, we were able to stop that," said Weis.

The arrests renewed worries among New Jersey's Muslim community. Hundreds of Muslim men from New Jersey were rounded up and detained in the months after the 2001 terror attacks, but none were connected to that plot.

"If these people did something, then they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer who represented scores of detainees after the Sept. 11 attacks. "But when the government says `Islamic militants,' it sends a message to the public that Islam and militancy are synonymous."

"Don't equate actions with religion," he said.

Mario Tummillo lives near Tatar's father in Cookstown and said he worked with Tatar at the pizza parlor. Tummillo, 20, described Tatar as a religious man who "wasn't violent at all."

The restaurant's chef, Joseph Hofflinger, 35, quit after learning the owner was the father of one of the suspects.

"My son is in the 82nd Airborne," Hofflinger told ABC. "I won't work for a place that supports terrorism so I'm out."

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Associated Press Writers Kathy Matheson in Cherry Hill, Chris Newmarker in Trenton, Matt Apuzzo and Ben Feller in Washington, Geoff Mulvihill in Mount Laurel, Tom Hester Jr. in Trenton and Jeffrey Gold in Newark contributed to this story.


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