The Anti-Defamation League praised United States Attorney Paul J. Fishman and federal authorities following the prosecution of two New Jersey terror suspects.
Mohamed Alessa of North Bergen, 21, and Carlos Almonte of Elmwood Park, 24, pleaded guilty March 3 to a single charge of planning to join a terrorist organization in Somalia with links to Al Qaida.
Almonte, who was born in the Dominican Republic, and Alessa, a Palestinian with Jordanian and U.S. citizenship, were arrested last June at John F. Kennedy Airport as they attempted to link up with al-Shabaab, the militant Islamic organization controlling much of southern Somalia.
“This case is a reminder of the threat posed by American extremists influenced by the ideologies of extreme intolerance and violence propagated by terrorist movements overseas,” said Lawrence Cooper, ADL NJ regional board chair, and Etzion Neuer, ADL NJ regional director, in a March 4 press release. “It also demonstrates how hatred of Jews and Israel has been part of the radicalization process for some homegrown extremists.”
According to the ADL, Alessa and Almonte attended events held by the Islamic Thinkers Society and Revolution Muslim, two groups that advocate terrorist attacks and other forms of violence with the aim of creating a global Islamic state. Less than a week before their arrests, the two men participated in a protest in front of the Israeli consulate in New York, at which Almonte held a poster with the slogan, “Exterminate the Zionist Roaches.”
As he appeared before U.S. District Judge Dickinson R. Debevoise in Newark Federal Court, Fishman said the defendants “took affirmative steps to travel overseas…to kill people who did not share their same religious beliefs and ideologies.”
In admitting their guilt, the defendants said they had used computer software and paintball guns to simulate warfare.
“The defendants planned and trained for a mission that began in their New Jersey neighborhoods and would end with the murder of innocent civilians,” said Fishman.
But their attorney, Stanley Cohen, described his clients as teenagers merely playing war games.
“Mohamed Alessa was just 16 when these acts occurred,” said Cohen. “Almonte was 18 going on 19. Kids say and do stupid things.”
Although both men could have faced life in prison, by pleading guilty to a single conspiracy charge they will receive between 15 and 30 years behind bars when they are sentenced on June 20.