Focus Turns Towards Airport Employees, Other Terrorist
Although some officials
claim the plan revealed this weekend
to blow up buildings, fuel tanks, and pipelines at New
York's John F. Kennedy International Airport --
which handles 1,000 flights and more than 120,000 passengers daily
-- was unlikely to succeed, security concerns have been raised
about airport employees and non-Al Qaeda cells in the US, reported
The 40-mile long pipeline the group targeted carries jet
fuel from New Jersey and through the boroughs of Staten
Island, Brooklyn, and Queens; fuel tanks at JFK hold up to 32
million gallons of jet fuel.
Experts cast severe doubt on the practicalities of the plot. JFK
airport, like many other airports around the world, is fed by a
series of pipelines that supply jet fuel and heating oil. In many
cases the pipes are beneath the tarmac, and are laid directly to
the gates where planes park.
Officials stressed that sabotaging part of that system would be
highly unlikely to lead to the kind of chain-reaction
explosion the terrorists sought. Additionally, jet fuel does not
produce an explosive force unless it is under pressure or
vaporized; pipelines and tanks have safety valves to contain any
mishap, reported The Age (AU).
Although one law enforcement official, speaking to The New York
Times, played down Russell Defreitas' ability to carry out an
attack -- calling him "a sad sack" and "not a Grade A terrorist" --
the official said the New Jersey plotters "were a bit further
along" than the plot in which a group of men was arrested last
month on charges of planning to attack soldiers at Fort Dix in New
However, the official
admitted Defreitas' efforts to enlist Jamaat al-Muslimeen's aid
could have had devastating consequences.
Abdul Kadir and Abdel Nur were said to be associates of
Trinidadian radical Muslim group Jamaat al Muslimeen, which
launched an unsuccessful rebellion in 1990 that left 24 dead.
In a recorded conversation, Kadir, an engineer by training,
explained to his alleged co-conspirators that the fuel tanks would
require two explosions, which suggested they had some technical
expertise. The indictment alleges that Kareem Ibrahim was planning
to send "an emissary" overseas to present the plan to other
extremists for their support.
According to media sources, Defreitas, a US citizen, developed
his hatred for America a decade ago while working as a cargo
handler at JFK, where he saw military parts being shipped to Israel
that he thought would be used to kill Muslims.
Defreitas was recorded saying he "wanted to do something to get
those bastards" and he boasted that he had been taught to make
bombs in Guyana. Despite their efforts, the men never obtained any
explosives, authorities said.
Defreitas allegedly used his knowledge of airport operations to
identify targets and escape routes and assess airport security,
while also using satellite photographs of the airport downloaded
from the Internet.
Meanwhile, an unnamed passenger at JFK had this to say: "They
have really cracked down on passengers, but now who thinks about
the employees going in to do this work?"
"You have to continue to do what you have to do, everyday in
your life," said another. "If you stop because something's
happening and you be so afraid to get out of your house, you're not
going to live your life. So you keep on going and enjoy it."
The Port Authority released a statement saying in part, "...we
continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the safety of
our airports and airport customers."