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Two men arrested in N.Y. bomb plot

(The following story by Steve Miller appeared on the Washington Times website on August 29.)

NEW YORK -- Two men were arrested Friday night, a little more than two days before the start of the Republican National Convention, accused of conspiring to bomb a subway station and other high-profile targets here.

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, announcing the arrests at a press conference yesterday, said that the suspects — one a Pakistani national, the other a U.S. citizen — had been under surveillance for a year.

The two men, identified as Shahawar Matin Siraj, 21, a Pakistani who lives in Queens, and James El Shafay, 19, a U.S. citizen living on Staten Island, were taken into custody last night by agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department and were arraigned in a federal court yesterday.

The two are charged with plotting to destroy the Herald Square subway station with explosives, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn said.

"Their motive was generally hatred for America," Commissioner Kelly said. He added that one of the men had also made anti-Semitic statements.

Their targets included the Herald Square subway station, which runs underneath a popular Midtown shopping area located a block from Madison Square Garden, where the convention will begin tomorrow.

In addition to the popular subway stop, the commissioner said, the two were also plotting against "three police stations on Staten Island, a prison and the Verrazano Bridge and they drew a map of the facilities."

The Verrazano Narrows Bridge connects Brooklyn and Staten Island. Also included in the plans were two other subway stops, at 42nd Street and at Lexington Avenue, officials said.

The suspects had no explosives in their possession, the commissioner said.

"It was clear that they had an intention to cause damage, to kill people. ... They did not immediately have means to do it," Commissioner Kelly said. "To the best of our knowledge, they were not associated with any group."

He added that he was not certain that the convention figured into the suspects' plans.

"It was prudent at this time to make the arrests," he said.

The arrests were not connected to reports that terrorists, especially al Qaeda, were looking to disrupt the November election.

Also yesterday, Amtrak trains running between New York and points south in the afternoon were delayed between 90 minutes and two hours after something got tangled in the overhead electric wires that power the trains.

Some riders jumped off trains that were halted in nearby New Jersey and grabbed cabs to get into New York.

"Anything coming in and out of New York was affected," Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said.

The problem also affected New Jersey Transit trains between Newark and New York's Penn Station.

Meanwhile, New York City police officers arrested 25 persons on various charges relating to protests of the upcoming convention.

So far, police have made 311 convention-related arrests, including the 264 on Friday night who were detained for disorderly conduct in a protest bicycle ride that snaked through the city and passed by Madison Square Garden, the convention site.

The bike ride was the first major clash between police and demonstrators converging on the city for the convention.

The anti-war group ANSWER was encouraging people to gather late last night in Central Park. Meanwhile, a group called Ring Out planned to encircle ground zero in Lower Manhattan and ring bells to honor those who died at the World Trade Center. The group said it intended to show Mr. Bush does not speak for all attack victims or New Yorkers.

Yesterday's protests were expected to be a mere prelude to today, when a huge anti-war march was to pass by the convention site and end at Union Square Park in Manhattan.

Organizers of that march have said it could draw 250,000 people. The city refused to allow a rally in Central Park, but organizers suggested protesters could spontaneously gather there anyway after the march.

Monday, August 30, 2004

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