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Counter Proliferation Investigation Unit
05/01/2009

4 New Jersey men receive life in prison for conspiring to kill U.S. soldiers

Fifth man receives 33 years on terrorist plot conviction

PHILADELPHIA - The five men who were convicted of plotting to kill members of the U.S. military during an armed attack on a military base were sentenced during two days of hearings.

On April 29, a U.S. District Judge sentenced Dritan Duka and Shain Duka to prison terms of life plus an additional, consecutive 30 years. The third brother, Eljvir Duka, received a life prison term. On April 30, the judge sentenced Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer to a term of life in prison plus an additional, consecutive 30 years and sentenced Serdar Tatar to 33 years in prison. There is no parole in the federal system.

The investigation was conducted by the FBI South Jersey Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) led by the FBI, Philadelphia Division. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the second largest federal contributor of personnel to the FBI South Jersey JTTF.

The defendants' arrests occurred on May 7, 2007, in Cherry Hill as Dritan and Shain Duka were meeting a confidential government witness to purchase four automatic M-16 rifles and three semi-automatic AK-47 rifles to be used in a future attack on military personnel. The other defendants were arrested at various locations at about the same time.

On Dec. 22, 2008, after 5½ days of deliberations, a jury convicted the three Duka brothers, Shnewer and Tatar on Count One of the seven-count Superseding Indictment that charged them with conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military. The jury also convicted the Dukas and Shnewer of firearm offenses; including possession of machine guns. See below for conviction details on each of the defendants.

The evidence proved that one member of the group conducted surveillance at Fort Dix and Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, Dover Air Force Base in Delaware and the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia. The co-conspirators obtained a detailed map of Fort Dix, where they hoped to use assault rifles to kill as many soldiers as possible, according to trial testimony and evidence.

During the trial, the jury viewed secretly recorded videotapes of the defendants performing small-arms training at a shooting range in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and watching training videos amongst themselves that included depictions of American soldiers being killed and of known foreign Islamic radicals urging jihad against the United States.

The defendants and the charges on which each was convicted are as follows:

  • Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, 24, of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the members of the U.S. military, and the attempted possession of AK-47 semi-automatic assault weapons to be used in the attack.
  • Dritan Duka, 30 of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military; possession of machine guns; possession and attempted possession of machine guns in furtherance of a crime of violence; and two counts of possession of firearms by an illegal alien.
  • Shain Duka, 28, of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military; possession of machine guns; possession and attempted possession of machine guns in furtherance of a crime of violence; and two counts of possession of firearms by an illegal alien.
  • Eljvir Duka, 25, of Cherry Hill: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military, and possession of firearms by illegal aliens. The jury acquitted on one count of possession and attempted possession of machine guns in furtherance of a crime of violence.
  • Serdar Tatar, 25, of Philadelphia: conspiracy to murder members of the U.S. military. A sixth co-defendant, Agron Abdullahu, 26, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, pleaded guilty before on Oct. 31, 2007, to aiding and abetting the Duka brothers' illegal possession of weapons. Abdullahu was arrested on May 7, 2007, along with the defendants convicted today. On March 31, 2008, Abdullahu was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison.

In determining the sentences, U.S. District Judge Kugler consulted the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges that take into account the severity and characteristics of the offense, the defendant's criminal history, if any, and other factors. The judge, however, was not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence. Parole has been abolished in the federal system. Defendants who are given custodial terms must serve nearly all that time.

Judge Kugler, who presided over all aspects of this case, also ordered the men to pay $125,000 in restitution to the Department of the Army for the costs of added security measures undertaken in response to the plot.

The case was tried by Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. Hammer, Jr., Chief of the U.S. Attorney's Office Counter-Terrorism Unit. The JTTF comprises the FBI, ICE, the Camden County Prosecutor's Office, NJ State Police and the Delaware River Port Authority Police.

Additionally, the JTTF was assisted in this investigation by: the U.S. military services at Fort Dix, Fort Monmouth, Dover Air Force Base, the U.S. Coast Guard in Philadelphia and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, along with the Cherry Hill Police Department, Mt. Laurel Police Department, Cherry Hill Fire Department, Camden County Sheriff's Department, Philadelphia Police Department, Pennsylvania State Police, the Burlington County Prosecutor's Office, and N.J. Homeland Security.