The War on Terror Comes to Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill, New Jersey is an upper middle class Philadelphia suburb across the Delaware River bridges in Camden County.  Camden itself is ranked  the ‘most dangerous city' in the U.S.  But Cherry Hill is ranked 47th by Money Magazine as one of the best places to live in America.  The township's website trumpets this accolade: "you couldn't pick a better place".  

Mayor Bernie Platt, long time Mayor and South Jersey politician and scion of a Jewish funeral home family business in the area is one of Cherry Hill's biggest boosters, attaching great stock to the city's diversity, as embodied in its significant affluent Jewish community and successful immigrant communities.  "We are a diverse suburban municipality with representatives of many faiths and ethnic backgrounds," Keashen, spokesman for Mayor Platt, said in a Courier Post article.  About 12.5 percent of Cherry Hill's residents are foreign born.  

Last Sunday, John Adler, New Jersey State Senator (D. Camden) attended the groundbreaking ceremony for a Mosque being built by Indian Muslims who live in Cherry Hill.  He considers Cherry Hill a "a place of peace and tolerance." Quresh Dahodwala, a leader of the India-based sect Dawoodi Bohra, which is building the Anjuman-E-Fakhri mosque, said his group has about 60 members.

He said, "he did not know the total number of Muslims in Cherry Hill. But he estimated the total number in South Jersey as between 8,000 and 10,000."

On Monday that diversity boosterism by Mayor Platt and others in Cherry Hill was set back by the arrest of six Muslim suspects in an attempted al Qaeda-like plot to attack Fort Dix, New Jersey. The  Fort Dix Six also had plans to attack Dover, Delaware, Air Force Base, Coast Guard and Navy facilities, and the Federal office building in Philadelphia. The latter were targeted during the traditional Army Navy game held in the City of Brotherly Love.

Five of those suspects charged by the Federal prosecutors were residents of Cherry Hill.   Four were Albanian Kosavar Muslims, including brothers Dritan, Eljvir, and Shain Duka.  The Duka boys were apparently smuggled into the U.S. by their parents in 1984.  A Turkish Muslim, Derdar Tatar, a naturalized citizen is also a Cherry Hill resident as is Philadelphia cab driver Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer - whom the FBI considers the alleged ‘mastermind. ' Shnewer originated from Amman Jordan and has Palestinian relations in the West Bank village of al-Dhaheriyeh, near Hebron. 

Of special interest was a fourth Albanian Kosavar Muslim gun broker in the plot, Agron Abdullahu, who lived in Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey. He was a former sniper in Kosovo who trained with the Egyptian military; Abdullahu is a legal U.S. resident. Could he also have been a member of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) - a known terrorist group in the breakaway Serbian province?

The FBI had been alerted about this terrorist plot by a sharp eyed Mount Laurel, New Jersey Circuit  City store clerk in January, 2006  who was transferring a video tape to a DVD brought in by one of the suspects, when he spotted something in the video that didn't sit right with him-training using AK-47's and other semi-automatic weapons. 

We'd like to think that the Circuit City clerk and ‘local hero' will get some protection under the pending ‘John Doe' amendments to H.R. 1-the 9/11 legislation, currently before a joint U.S. Senate House conference committee. But, it's unlikely that the tipster will get any indemnification for having alerted the FBI to ‘suspicious persons' in case of a law suit brought by Muslim advocacy groups like CAIR.  The legislation only covers persons who report such information on federally regulated transportation systems, not mall video stores.

Secret recordings , made by an FBI informer revealed that the ‘South Jersey Six' had become radical Jihadis.

"My intent is to a hit a heavy concentration of soldiers," said the alleged mastermind, Philadelphia cabdriver Shnewer.

"It doesn't matter to me whether I get locked up, arrested," said Serdar Tatar, the 7-Eleven clerk who worked near Temple University in Philadelphia.

"We can do a lot of damage with seven people," Dritan Duka, allegedly said on an FBI tape.

Eljvir Duka said "In the end, when it comes to defending your religion, when someone ... attacks your religion, your way of life, then you go jihad."

I have a special interest in Cherry Hill and environs because my sister and brother-in-law reside there when they are not snowbirding in Florida.  In a phone call with them Tuesday night, they wondered if the Jewish community in Cherry Hill would ‘be shocked' to the point of realizing that their prized diversity came at a high price: welcoming Muslim terrorists into their midst. 

The only time that the Cherry Hill Jewish community was in ‘shock' was the tawdry public trial and conviction of a Reform Rabbi  Fred Neulander , currently serving a life term  in a New Jersey prison for arranging  the contract murder of his wife Carol  in 1994.

The most prominent of the arraigned Fort Dix plotters are the three Duka brothers: Dritan, Eljvir, and Shain, whose family had settled in Cherry Hill, built a thriving roofing business, and whose friendly Jewish neighbors brought them fresh garden vegetables every summer.  One neighbor, a Michael Levine noted that the women wore head scarves, but he thought nothing of that. But now Levine commented: "They seemed like normal people - you'd have no idea," he said. "It's unsettling. You don't know who your neighbors are."

The other Cherry Hill resident plotter was Derdar Tatar  the son of Turkish resident aliens who have built a thriving pizzeria business in Cookstown not far from the giant McGuire Air Force base adjacent to Fort Dix in southern, New Jersey.   The family has recently sold the business and Derdar Tatar was seen tooling around in an expressive Cadillac Escalade SUV. Clearly neither he nor the other members of the ‘South Jersey Six' were impoverished and desperate enough to strike back at fellow American neighbors and infidels. His father Muslim Tatar commented that his son was ‘not a terrorist'.

"Mainstream Muslim" community leaders, because of the eruption of profiling complaints against Muslims in the wake of 9/11 when hundreds of Muslim men were detained, are concerned about a repetition. "What we're all afraid of is a new backlash," said Hesham Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee.

CAIR didn't waste any time holding a news conference on Tuesday and issued a damage control statement: "It seems clear that a potentially deadly attack has been averted," the group said. "We applaud the FBI for its efforts and repeat the American Muslim community's condemnation and repudiation of all those who would plan or carry out acts of terror while falsely claiming their actions have religious justification."

Yaser El-Menshawy, chairman of the Majlis Ash-Shura of New Jersey, the state's council of mosques, while condemning the plot, noted that those who plot against the government "cannot be stopped simply by law enforcement or military means alone." "It's all about U.S. government in the Middle East"-meaning Iraq, Israel and the Palestinians. "We are going to have to take a look at it and see where we are right and where we are not right," El-Menshawy said. "If that's not the case, then I fear we are in for a very long and difficult period."

Meanwhile the federal prosecutor, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie in Camden, New Jersey - where the arraignment of the Fort Dix plotters had occurred - did everything possible to separate the actions from the Muslim Community. Christie did not want to injure the FBI and Homeland Security's special relationship with the Muslim community, when he noted, "We would not want this to tar the reputation of the Muslim community in New Jersey and the work they do for law enforcement every day."

Even White House spokesperson, Tony Snow, piled on this disclaimer in his statement on Tuesday by indicating that there was ‘no direct evidence' that the men have ties to international terrorism.

"They are not charged with being members of an international terrorism organization," Snow said. "At least at this point, there is no evidence that they received direction from international terror organizations."

But there is a connection to international Islamic terrorism. The internet connected these plotters.  According to an MSNBC report, FBI affidavits noted that among the materials used in organizing, training and proselytizing the Jihadis were al-Qaeda training videos, the video wills of two 9-11 hijackers, and videos of U.S. soldiers being killed in Iraq.

"The leader of the group is described as smiling while watching the deaths of the U.S. soldiers."

"You know the world has changed when videos shot in Iraq and Afghanistan can be an inspiration for a bunch of Albanians in Cherry Hill, N.J.," said the official.

Neither the FBI, nor Department of Homeland Security want to ‘go there', despite the compelling evidence to the contrary. After all they, along with Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt, don't want to be accused of being "racist" or "bigoted" do they?  Our humanitarian refugee laws instituted by President Clinton have opened us up since the late 1990's for immigration from territories where terriism is a popular activity. They are an open running spigot through which terrorists like the Kosovar Albanian Muslim sniper in the ‘South Jersey Six' or the tough Islamist Somalis I've written about in Nashville got into the heartland of the U.S.

Yes, we'd all like to believe that it's only those extremists fringe Muslims behind the Fort Dix plot  So terror has jarred the peace and tolerance of Cherry Hill, New Jersey and my sister and brother-in-law who live there have every right to be concerned. So do we all.

Jerry Gordon is a Member of the Board of American Congress for Truth.