Poughkeepsie Journal : Man believed to be informant in terror plot also frequented Wappingers Falls mosque

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Man believed to be informant in terror plot also frequented Wappingers Falls mosque

John W. Barry | May 23, 2009

A man believed to be the government informant at the center of a Newburgh-based terrorism plot that unfolded last week had previously attended services at a mosque in Wappingers Falls, according to sources.

Imam Salahuddin Mustafa Muhammad of Masjid Al Ikhlas mosque in Newburgh said today that he believes a man named Shahid Maqsood, who attended services at the mosque, is the government informant.

Muhammad said he had previously learned, during routine dialogue with Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Wappingers Falls, that a man there had invited attention after asking more than once for a list of members.

“We suspect this person was a government agent,” Muhammad said.

Four men were arrested Wednesday and accused of plotting to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh.

The men — James Cromitie, David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, all of Newburgh — have pleaded not guilty.

Cromitie and Payen attended Masjid Al Ikhlas mosque occasionally.

Federal officials had been aware of the plot for almost a year and had an informant working with the crew, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday night. The FBI arranged for the alleged plotters to receive a non-functioning missile and bogus C-4 explosives, according to the complaint.

Muhammad said he grew suspicious of Maqsood because, “of things that came back to me from other people, who were saying he invited them to lunch, he invited them to dinner; he started having these conversations: what do you think about what’s going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Don’t you think we should deal with jihad?”

Zubair Zoha, chairman of the board of trustees at Masjid Al-Noor mosque in Wappingers Falls, said Maqsood had asked him three times for the mosque’s membership list, sometime between 2007-08, when Zoha was treasurer. Maqsood had told Zoha he wanted to start a business locally and was hoping to advertise his services to members of the mosque.

“I was suspicious,” Zoha said. “Nobody ever requested the membership list. I didn’t know what the purpose was. Why did he want the list? He couldn’t convince me.”