Jurors hear recordings in Fort Dix case

/ Source: The Associated Press

Jurors in the case of an alleged plot to attack Fort Dix heard recordings on Tuesday in which some of the five defendants talked about buying weapons, sniper training and killing soldiers.

One of the men, Eljvir Duka, asked whether a rifle would be a powerful enough weapon.

"Can you shoot an American soldier from a mile away and kill him?" he said.

Duka's words were captured on recordings secretly made by an FBI informant in February 2007, during a trip he and the defendants made to Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains. The informant, Besnik Bakalli, testified that he hoped the trip would be a vacation but that he believed it was really training for a jihad — a holy war.

Government prosecutors used the recordings and Bakalli's testimony to support their claims that Duka, his two brothers and two other men were plotting to kill soldiers on the Army's Fort Dix. Defense lawyers, who have not yet been able to question Bakalli in cross-examination, say the men were not seriously planning anything.

The recordings played Tuesday — which are among hundreds made during a 14-month investigation — included some of the suspects going to gun stores, talking about buying guns, praising al-Qaida, talking about killing soldiers and suicide bomb attacks. But they did not include any mention of Fort Dix or specific plans to attack American targets.

No attack carried out
No attack was carried out before the men were arrested in May 2007. Still, the government has portrayed the case as one of the most frightening examples of homegrown terrorism in the United States.

The suspects, who were in their 20s when they were arrested, are all foreign-born Muslims who have lived for years in the comfortable Philadelphia suburb of Cherry Hill.

All five men could face life in prison if they are convicted. They face charges of conspiracy to kill military personnel, attempted murder and weapons offenses.

In the recordings the jury heard Tuesday, the men discussed the morality of attacks. Some of the accused plotters said that it is permissible under Islam to attack military targets, but not civilians.

During one taped conversation, one of the suspects, Shain Duka, asks a group of men, "Where does it say in the Quran that you can't do suicide bombs?"

A few moments later, Shain Duka says the suicide bombs deployed in Iraq against U.S. military targets were permissible. "The way they do in Palestine," he said, referring to Israel, "I'm not for that."