NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Ahmed Ferhani, one of the two men accused in an alleged plot to attack Jews in New York City wanted to be a star, but the spotlight found him in a way he may never have anticipated.
Ferhani was registered on “Star Now” and other sites for would-be actors and models, but when he was ready for his closeup, it wasn’t on stage, but rather in court.
Authorities said Ferhani was the alleged mastermind of the plot to obtain weapons and attack synagogues. He apparently recruited co-defendant Mohamed Mamdouh to the cause.
However, at his home in Whitestone, Queens, neighbors said Ferhani showed no signs of radicalization.
“He looks like a nice person,” said one neighbor.
When asked if Ferhani seemed radicalized or political, another neighbor, Ali Popal, told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello “no way.”
“I would never think of him like that, in that way,” he said.
Ferhani’s home is located just one block from the Garden Jewish Center and many Jews live in the neighborhood. Gloria Abramowitz said she felt “very uncomfortable.”
“This is just a very quiet, mixed neighborhood, lot of different ethnic groups, and everybody’s happy together,” she said.
No one answered the door at Ferhani’s home on Friday. On Thursday, his father told reporters his son was a naive kid who fell under the influence of the wrong people.
The arrest of the two men came on Wednesday evening as police surrounded a car occupied by Ferhani and an undercover detective.
The last thing Ferhani said before his arrest was that he wanted to buy a carton of grenades and a gun silencer.
“He had this notion that he would go into a synagogue and put a bomb in the synagogue or a hand grenade and if he was resisted in any way, he would shoot at people and obviously the silencer would facilitate that happening,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
Kelly said that Ferhani and Mamdouh were “motivated to a great extent by a pathological hatred of Jewish people.”
People familiar with the tape recordings made of Ferhami’s statements told CBS 2 he wanted to go to Pakistan for terrorist training and then go to Gaza to kill Jews.
“I don’t like the idea of killing myself to kill others, but in fighting to the death if needed…and if any Jews get in my way, I will kill them,” Ferhani allegedly stated on the tapes.
Ferhani also allegedly stated that he wanted to go “hardcore and learn how to build better bombs” to do “great damages.”
Kelly said the NYPD operation against the two men was a message for others.
“Don’t even think of a terrorist act here in New York City,” he said.
On Long Island, police were keeping close watching on synagogues and other vulnerable locations as congregants prepared for the Jewish sabbath.
“Nassau County police is on a heightened state of alert. We have both covert and visible police forces out,” police chief Frank Kirby told CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan.
Across Nassau County’s south shore, anxious communities reacted to yet another threat — allegedly driven by a hatred of Jews.
“I find it [astonishing] that Americans could have such hate towards other fellow Americans– just because their religion,” student Michael Rosenfeld said.
At the historic Temple Israel in Lawrence, Rabbi Jay Rosenbaum said he believes now is a time for Jews, Christians and Muslims to reach out to each other.
“Violence as we know leads to more violence and the time has come for rational voices from all faith groups to speak up and speak out,” he said.