Officials: 2 men arrested in NYC terror probe

By COLLEEN LONG and TOM HAYS | May 12, 2011 | 1:15 PM EDT

NEW YORK (AP) — Two Americans were in custody Thursday on accusations they bought or tried to buy guns and grenades in a suspected terror plot against New York synagogues, a person familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

The pair were of Algerian and Moroccan descent and could face state terrorism charges, the person said.

Two law enforcement officials confirmed the arrests. One of the officials said the FBI was consulted about the case and declined to pursue it.

The three people weren't authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

It wasn't immediately clear what synagogues might have been discussed as potential targets, and no other details were immediately available. Officials were expected to provide more information later Thursday.

New York City police have been on high alert for threats to the city since the U.S. raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden over a week ago.

Terror suspects are traditionally prosecuted by federal authorities. New York passed its own anti-terrorism law within six days of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and lawmakers at the time said they thought it may never be used.

The law states that a person can be found guilty of terrorism when he or she commits a crime with the goal of intimidating or coercing civilians, influencing government policy or affecting the conduct of a government. The statute also increases the penalty of crimes if the suspect is also found guilty of making terrorist threats or committing terrorist acts.

Four men were arrested in 2009 on charges they plotted to blow up synagogues in the Bronx and shoot down military planes at an air base upstate.

A federal jury in Manhattan convicted the men last year. Defense lawyers claimed the four never would have engaged in such plans without being pushed into it by the FBI's undercover informant. Judge Colleen McMahon scolded the government, suggesting the case bordered on entrapment, but upheld the convictions.


Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.