After police foil terrorist attack on Islamberg, New York Muslims push for justice

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This combination of three Jan. 22, 2019, photographs released by the Greece Police Department in Greece, N.Y., shows Brian Colaneri, from left, Andrew Crysel and Vincent Vetromile. Authorities said the three men, all from the Rochester, N.Y., area, were charged with plotting to attack Islamberg, a rural upstate New York Muslim community, with explosives. A fourth suspect has not been identified publicly because he is a juvenile. Photo courtesy of Greece Police Department

(RNS) — News of arrests in an alleged terrorist plot to attack their small village has sent “shock waves” through Islamberg, a predominantly black Muslim community in upstate New York, residents say.

Now, members of the beleaguered community say they want real action after learning that four young men had allegedly planned to attack their community with homemade explosives and guns.

“We are in shock. Just imagine waking up and having to tell your children about this plot, that their lives are in danger,” Islamberg Mayor Rashid Clark said in a news conference Wednesday (Jan. 23). “If our families are to be safe, we want all suspects caught and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

According to police, the plot to attack Islamberg unraveled when a 16-year-old high school student showed a photo on his phone to friends at Odyssey Academy in Greece, N.Y. Greece is about 200 miles northwest of Islamberg.

“He looks like the next school shooter, doesn’t he?” police say the teen told friends in the cafeteria.

Students reported the comment to authorities, who investigated and found that the 16-year-old was communicating with three other people, identified as fellow Boy Scouts, on the chat service Discord to coordinate an attack.

Together, they had allegedly stockpiled 23 legal firearms and built three homemade bombs using Mason jars, duct tape, black powder and projectiles like BBs and nails, according to police.

Greece police say it was part of a “serious plot” to attack Islamberg, which has been home to about 200 African-American Muslims for nearly 40 years. The 70-acre gated homesteading community, tucked in the western Catskill Mountains, is also the headquarters of The Muslims of America organization.

“If they had carried out this plot, and we have every indication that was what they were going to do, people would have died,” Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said in a statement. “The kid who said something saved people’s lives. Everything worked and as a result, nobody’s dead and that’s a good story.”

Police in Greece arrested Brian Colaneri, 20; Vincent Vetromile, 19; and Andrew Crysel, 18, on Saturday, along with the 16-year-old, who is being prosecuted as an adolescent offender. All four are charged with three counts of criminal possession of a weapon and one count of conspiracy. Authorities noted that the investigation is ongoing and that more arrests may be made.

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