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Statement by NYPD Commissioner Raymond W.

Kelly
on May 11th Terror Arrests
At approximately 6 p.m. yesterday, detectives from the New York City Police Depa
rtment’s Intelligence Division apprehended two Queens residents, Ahmed Ferhani and
Mohammed Mehdi Mamdouh, after Ferhani purchased two Browning, .380 semi-automat
ic pistols, a Smith and Wesson handgun, ammunition, and a hand grenade in an und
ercover operation that culminated with his arrest at 58th Street near the West S
ide Highway.
Twelve detectives in six unmarked police vehicles converged on a gray, late mode
l Toyota Corolla occupied by Ferhani. Mamdouh was arrested by three detectives
at about the same time on the corner of West 57th Street and Ninth Avenue.
Just before Ferhani was apprehended, he said he wanted to obtain more handguns,
silencers, a box of hand grenades, bullet-resistant vests, and police radios. B
y way of explanation, Ferhani said - using an expletive - that he was fed up wit
h the way Muslims were being treated around the world. “They’re treating us like do
gs,” he said.
Ferhani, a 26-year-old native of Algeria who currently resides in Queens, conspi
red with 20-year-old Mamdouh to bomb a synagogue in Manhattan. They did not ide
ntify the synagogue by name.
Mamdouh, a native of Casablanca, is a livery-service dispatcher. He came to the
United States with his parent in August of 1999. By virtue of his parents’ natur
alization, Mamdouh is a United States citizen.
Ferhani is unemployed. In addition to discussing the bombing of synagogues quot
e, “one after another,” he also expressed interest in bombing the Empire State Build
ing.
Seven months ago New York City undercover officers encountered Ferhani, who exp
ressed interest in killing Jews. He also said, “we will blow up a synagogue in Ma
nhattan and take out the whole entire building.” On the same day, after Mamdouh s
aid, quote, “I hate Jews,” Ferhani replied, “I want to kill them.”
Like the plotters in the Herald Square bomb plot, Ferhani discussed growing a be
ard and payos to disguise himself as a Hasidic Jew. We were concerned that his
purchase of the guns and a grenade was part of a plan to attack Jews in the city
. We decided to make the arrest at this time because of Ferhani’s interest in obt
aining weapons and his expressed desire to construct increasingly powerful bombs
.
Also, no matter how good the surveillance there’s always a chance a suspect may el
ude authorities. We did not want to risk losing track of Ferhani and Mamdouh wh
en we knew the danger they posed, especially to New York’s Jewish community.
We established no direct ties between them and Al Qaeda or other operational ter
rorist groups. Ferhani and Mamdouh were lone wolves, not unlike Matin Siraj and
James El-Shafay, who plotted to bomb the Herald Square subway station shortly b
efore the Republican National Convention in 2004. As I’m sure you recall, lone wo
lves were also involved in the plot to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community c
enter in Riverdale in 2008.
These arrests come at a time when the Department of Homeland Security, in the wa
ke of Bin Laden’s death, has reminded law enforcement in an unclassified report of
the threat posed by lone wolves.
Ferhani supported Palestinians against Israel and expressed interest in going to
Gaza to fight. He claimed that once, when he was jailed at Rikers, he met a Pa
lestinian inmate who instructed him on how to make a bomb using a light bulb, a
lead that is still being investigated.
He said he did not consider Hamas or Al Qaeda to be terrorist groups, and was pr
epared to die for jihad. Ferhani also discussed renting a farmhouse where he an
d others could fire weapons and have discussions without risk of being monitored
.
He immigrated to the United States in August 1995 from Algeria with two sibling
s and his parents, who claimed asylum. He has resided since then in Queens with
his family.
As a result of his asylum claim, he was granted permanent resident status by im
migration authorities. However, because of his failure to appear before an immi
gration judge to answer questions about arrests, his case was under review for p
ossible deportation.
I want to commend Commissioner Cohen and his team for their outstanding work in
this case. The exchange of guns with suspects is always a dangerous enterprise
, as illustrated last night in an unrelated undercover gun trafficking case.
I also want to thank District Attorney Vance and his outstanding team who worke
d so hard with us to bring these dangerous individuals to justice.
As for our undercover officers, obviously they cannot be identified. I can say,
however, that NYPD undercover officers were instrumental in thwarting not only
this plot and the one to bomb Herald Square, but also in identifying Carlos Almo
nte and Mohammed Alessa, who were arrested at Kennedy Airport last year en route
to Somalia for terrorist training.
While there are no specific plots targeting New York City in the wake of Bin Lad
en’s death this latest case reminds us that we must remain vigilant every day usin
g officers and detectives like those who helped bring this case to a safe and su
ccessful conclusion.