Terror plot against synagogues underscores threat

A foiled plot to attack New York synagogues offered a distressing reminder to the Jewish community that Osama bin Laden’s death does not mean an end to the threat of terrorism — especially from so-called “lone wolves.”

New York police arrested Algerian-born Ahmed Ferhani, 26, and Mohamed Mamdouh, 20, a naturalized American citizen from Morocco, on May 11 in Manhattan. Police made the arrests, the result of a seven-month investigation, after Ferhani purchased guns, an inert hand grenade and ammunition from an undercover detective.

Police had monitored the pair via wiretaps.

Ferhani discussed disguising himself as a religious Jew, including growing payes, or side curls, and leaving a bomb or grenade in a synagogue — shooting any Jews who got in his way, if necessary, according to police.

In a jailhouse interview, Mamdouh said that he wasn’t involved in the reputed plot. He distanced himself from Ferhani, whom he described as a drinking buddy and casual acquaintance, and not a friend.

“I don’t have problems with anyone. Not Jews, not anyone,” he said. Mamdouh also told the newspaper that Ferhani “was the one who was talking about all the weapons and everything else.”

While the police had little to say about Mamdouh, the city’s Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Ferhani “was motivated to a great extent by a pathological hatred of Jewish people.” Ferhani also had discussed attacking a church and the Empire State Building, police say. The men were said to be driven by anger over what they saw as mistreatment of Muslims around the world.

The police say they are not aware of whether the men had a specific synagogue in mind as a target, though they say that the two had hoped to target a major synagogue in Manhattan. — jta and ap