A leader of a homegrown terror cell plotting an attack that would be "bigger than the World Trade Center" was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. A federal judge rejected the pleas of leniency from Abdul Kadir, a former member of Guyana's parliament and the man who plotted to blow up fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International airport.
Kadir is an engineer with ties militant groups in Iran and Venezuela, prosecutors say. He linked the conspirators to experienced terrorists and provided explosives advice, a Department of Justice statement said. Kadir was arrested in Trinidad aboard a plane headed to Venezuala, en route to Iran.
Together, the men performed physical surveillance, made video recordings of JFK, and conducted additional reconnaissance on the Internet in preparation for the attack. "Anytime you hit Kennedy, it is the most hurtful thing to the United States," ringleader Russell Defreitas reportedly told the other conspirators. "To hit John John F. Kennedy, wow. They love John F. Kennedy like he's the man. If you hit that, this whole country will be in mourning. It's like you can kill the man twice."
DeFreitas also was convicted with Kadir on August 2, 2010, but has not yet been sentenced.
The men were charged in a 2007 criminal complaint with plotting to blow up fuel tanks at JFK and the underground pipelines that run through an adjacent Queens neighborhood. The thwarted attack was "one of the most chilling plots imaginable," U.S. Attorney Roslyn R. Mauskopf said following the arrests. "The devastation that would have been caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable."
The members of the plot also tried to win support from prominent international terrorist groups and leaders, as well as the government of Iran, including Abu Bakr, leader of the Trinidadian militant group Jamaat al-Muslimeen, and Adnan el-Shukrijumah, an al-Qaida leader.