The alleged plot to bomb a fuel pipeline feeding New York's busiest airport uncovered over the weekend has sparked concern among authorities because the four suspects turned not to the Middle East or Africa, but to the Caribbean for support.
According to a federal complaint, the four accused Muslim men and an informant who helped crack the plot to attack John F. Kennedy International Airport visited a compound belonging to Jamaat al Muslimeen, a radical Islamic group known for launching a bloody 1990 coup attempt in Trinidad.
"These terrorists are in our own backyard," said Tom Corrigan, a former member of the FBI-New York Police Department Joint Terrorism Task Force. "They may have to reach out to people they don't necessarily trust, but they need - for guns, explosives, whatever."
Although Jamaat al Muslimeen did have contact with the men accused in the Kennedy airport plot, it is not accused of offering them any support. The group, whose followers are largely black converts to Sunni Islam, has faded as a political force in Trinidad as its leader, Yasin Abu Bakr, fends off criminal charges of inciting violence.
The Kennedy airport case and the recent plot to attack Fort Dix illustrate the need for inside information, Corrigan said. Six men were arrested in a plot to attack soldiers at the New Jersey military base after an FBI informant infiltrated that group.
"These have been two significant cases back-to-back where informants were used," he said.
In the Kennedy airport case, the informant was a twice-convicted drug dealer who found himself in the midst of a terrorist plot conceived as more devastating than the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. However, authorities say the plan was not well developed or far along.
"Would you like to die as a martyr?" the informant was asked, according to the indictment.
The man accused of being the mastermind, Russell Defreitas, 63, immigrated to the U.S. more than 30 years ago, but he told the federal informant that his feelings of disgust toward his adopted homeland had lingered for years.
"Before terrorism started in this country," he said in one secretly recorded conversation.
When Defreitas discussed his radical "brothers" with the informant, he made it clear they were not Arabs, but from Trinidad and Guyana.
The complaint made clear the informant had deeply infiltrated the group. Defreitas, a retired JFK airport cargo worker, made four reconnaissance missions to the airport, authorities said. They captured each one on audio and video equipment.
Kareem Ibrahim and another suspect, Abdul Kadir, were in custody in Trinidad awaiting extradition hearings. Officials identified Kadir as a former mayor of a Guyanese town and a member of the country's Parliament.
Authorities in Trinidad were still seeking a fourth suspect, Abdel Nur.
From NPR reports and the Associated Press