One of the MUSLIM terror suspects arrested for allegedly planning to attack New York synagogues dressed as a Hasidic Jew was a wanna-be model who used to work as a make-up salesman for Saks Fifth Avenue, it has emerged.
UK DAILY MAIL – 27-year-old Ahmed Ferhani, who quit his job to try to become a male model, was caught with taxi dispatcher Mohammad Mamdouh, 20, on Tuesday night in a dramatic police sting operation as they tried to acquire a fearsome arsenal of weapons from an undercover NYPD officer.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said Ferhani and Moroccan pal Mamdouh were to sneak into ‘a major synagogue in Manhattan’ disguised as Hasidic Jews, complete with ‘peyot’, or side curls, and beards. He said: ‘He [Ferhani] was committed to violent jihad, and his plan became bigger and more violent with each passing week.’
Mamdouh, of Moroccan descent and Ferhani, of Algerian descent, were arrested late on Tuesday night allegedly trying to buy weapons in exchange for drugs. It was during the sting that one of the suspects confessed to the plot the kill Jews, the court heard. One of the suspects is a U.S. citizen and the other is a legal resident. Both already had weapons in their possession, police said.
It emerged today that both had been arrested for robbery last year. Ferhani has a criminal record for narcotics, and was allegedly trying to sell drugs to fund the gun deal.
Described as the alleged ringleader of the attack, he moved to America in 1995 when his family sought asylum from war-torn Algeria. He went on to work as a cosmetics salesman at Saks Fifth Avenue, but had been known to police for some time.
Yesterday, Ferhani’s father, J. Ferhani, insisted his son was not an extremist, instead describing him as a wannabe model who drank alcohol and had a Christian girlfriend. He told the New York Times his son was ‘a good kid’ who ‘got involved with a bad kid’. He doesn’t pray, he drinks,’ he added.
Mamdouh, who worked as a taxi dispatcher, moved to the U.S. from Morocco in 1999, and is an American citizen. He was set to serve 90 days in jail under a plea deal for a robbery last October. He allegedly broke into the home of 23-year-old Joann Ocampo in Queens, stealing property worth $5,000, her laptop, jewellery, a bottle of vodka – and kicking her four-year-old poodle, Lulu, so viciously she ended up with broken ribs.
Police had earlier displayed the pair’s alleged weapon haul, which included two Browning semi-automatic pistols, a Smith and Wesson handgun, ammunition and a hand grenade, at a press conference yesterday after the suspects were arrested.
Speaking alongside Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said the pair were arrested immediately after the purchase. Bloomberg said there had been 13 MUSLIM plots against New York since the September 11, 2001 mass murder of nearly 3,000 people at the World Trade Center.
Officials described Mamdouh and Ferhani as Islamist extremists bent on killing Jews, but said they were ‘lone wolves’ not connected to any formal group such as Al Qaeda. ‘They did it for Jihad,’ District Attorney Cyrus Vance, the head prosecutor in the case, said. ‘He was fed up with the way Moslems were being treated around the world. “They’re treating us like dogs,”‘ Kelly quoted one defendant as saying.
‘We will blow up the synagogue in Manhattan and take out the entire building,’ Kelly also quoted a suspect as saying. Ferhani ‘also expressed interest in bombing the Empire State Building,’ according to Kelly.
Ferhani showed a pattern of growing anger, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said. ‘His plans became bigger and more violent with every passing week.’
According to a criminal complaint drafted under state terror laws, the undercover officer had several meetings with the men where Ferhani discussed the idea of attacking a synagogue. Mamdouh emphasized the need for proper training, the complaint said, so they would not get caught like ‘the one that put the car in Times Square’ – a reference to the failed bombing last year by Faisal Shahzad.
Ferhani suggested disguising himself as a worshipping Jew to infiltrate a synagogue and leaving a bomb inside, the complaint said. He also discussed using grenades, ‘and described pulling the pins and throwing them into the synagogue,’ it added.
On May 5, the undercover officer introduced the men to another officer pretending to be an illegal gun dealer at a meeting where Ferhani stated he needed the weapons “for the cause,” the complaint said. ‘We gonna be victorious,’ it quoted Ferhani as saying.
At a meeting on Wednesday in Manhattan, one of the undercover officers handed Ferhani a bag carrying three handguns, three boxes of ammunition and the inert grenade. As soon as he put the bag into the trunk of a car, he was arrested, the complaint said.