Jurors in Fort Dix case see videos

October 22, 2008 5:55:37 PM PDT
Jurors in the case of five men accused of planning an attack on a New Jersey Army base saw two types of videos on Wednesday as prosecutors tried to show that the men were inspired by, and hoped to mimic, al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. One video - clearly homemade - shows men haphazardly firing guns on an overcast winter day in Pennsylvania's Pocono Mountains.

Others - in Arabic with slicker production - depicted American troops in the deserts of Iraq falling to snipers' bullets and Humvees exploding.

Though prosecutors do not claim that the men - all foreign-born Muslims in their 20s who lived in suburban New Jersey - were connected with any overseas terror groups, they do hope jurors notice the similarities.

Prosecutors say the men were inspired by the jihadist videos, and were they not arrested in May 2007, would have tried to carry out an attack on the 30,000-acre Fort Dix, which is currently used to train troops for deployments to Iraq.

The men are charged with conspiring to murder military personnel, attempted murder and weapons offenses. They could face life in prison if convicted.

Lawyers for Serdar Tatar, Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer and brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka say that if there was a plot, it was only because a paid government informant tried to lead them into it.

Wednesday marked the second day of testimony in a trial that's expected to last into December. The day focused heavily on screenings of videos and testimony about items found in the suspects' homes.

Jurors saw almost 17 minutes of homemade footage labeled "Shooting and Horseback Riding."

Taken from a stationary camera and set to a soundtrack of melodic Arabic chanting, it showed 10 men, including some of the suspects, taking turns firing four guns at a range in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania in February 2007.

FBI agent William Grace said the video was found in a bag in the Cherry Hill apartment of Dritan Duka on May 7, 2007 during a search just after he, his two brothers and two other men were arrested in the case.

Some videos were found on the computer of a home, also in Cherry Hill, where both Eljvir and Shain Duka lived.

They showed U.S. military vehicles being bombed in Iraq. One showed several U.S. soldiers falling to sniper's bullets.

While most of the jurors in the case watched stoically, some of them winced and put their hands over their mouths.

Another video showed an English transcription of a speech in Arabic describing the "cowardice, feebleness and defeat" of Western armies; above the words was a picture of Osama bin Laden.

One showed men in the desert, under cover of night, shooting machine guns at unknown targets. As they fired, the men shouted, "Allah akbar," Arabic for "God is great."

The Fort Dix suspects used the same phrase when they fired weapons in their video. And like the homemade video, several of the jihadist movies featured Islamic music.

Also in testimony Wednesday, federal agents described finding a map of Fort Dix in a closet in Mohamad Shnewer's bedroom, ammunition in all the suspect's homes, and smoke bombs in Dritan Duka's apartment.

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On the Net:

U.S. District Court Web site with evidence in case: http://www.njd.uscourts.gov/FortDixTrial/index.html

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