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NYC Synagogue Bomb Plot Suspect Arrested In Sting Pleads Guilty

Ahmed Ferhani Wanted To Send 'Message Of Intimidation' To Jews, Non-Muslims
Ahmed Ferhani stands before a judge during his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court May 12, 2011. (credit:Louis Lanzano-Pool/Getty Images)

Ahmed Ferhani stands before a judge during his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court May 12, 2011. (credit:Louis Lanzano-Pool/Getty Images)

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A man accused of trying to blow up New York City synagogues pleaded guilty in court Tuesday afternoon.

Algerian immigrant Ahmed Ferhani, who was among two arrested in a NYPD sting operation, was caught trying to purchase live grenades and other weapons in May of 2011.

Ferhani, 27, said the plot was meant to send “a message of intimidation and coercion to Jews and non-Muslims” in New York City, CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported.

Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice Michael Obus said he planned to sentence Ferhani to 10 years in prison, four years fewer than prosecutors had wanted. Sentencing was scheduled for Jan. 30.

The judge said Tuesday that Ferhani would like be deported to Algeria after his sentence is served.

Authorities called Ferhani a homegrown terrorist out to avenge what he saw as mistreatment of Muslims around the world. Ferhani envisioned posing as a Jew so he could infiltrate a synagogue and leave a bomb inside, prosecutors have said in court documents. At a meeting to arrange the gun buy, Ferhani said he needed the weapons “for the cause,” according to a court complaint.

His lawyers initially portrayed him as a mentally unstable man entrapped by police.

Most terror cases are federal, but Ferhani and co-defendant Mohamed Mamdouh were charged under a state law passed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ferhani and Mamdouh were arrested after Ferhani bought three handguns, ammunition and an inert grenade from an undercover detective, police said.

Mamdouh, a 21-year-old American citizen of Moroccan descent, had been dropped off nearby before the buy and was arrested soon afterward, according to police. He has pleaded not guilty.

A grand jury declined to indict the two men on the initial top charge against them, a high-level terror conspiracy count. But they were indicted on other terror and hate crime charges.

Ferhani’s lawyers have said he has been institutionalized for psychiatric problems as many as 30 times.

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