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Two Queens men arrested in plot to bomb a synagogue and church

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Two Queens men from North Africa were charged Thursday with terrorism in an alleged plot to blow up a synagogue in Manhattan and a church in Queens, the Manhattan district attorney said.

Ahmed Ferhani, 26, who is originally from Algeria, and Mohamed Mamdouh, an American citizen from Morocco, were arrested about 6 p.m. Wednesday at separate locations in Manhattan, the DA said.

Police Commission Ray Kelly told a news conference at City Hall that both men were from East Elmhurst.

The DA said the two men, who were charged with conspiring to commit arson and a hate crime, were lone wolves and had no direct ties to al-Qaeda or other terorist groups.

According to the charges, Ferhani and Mandouh had plotted to disguise themselves as Hasidic Jews who would attend services at an unnamed synagogue in Manhattan, hide a bomb and then leave, based on a discussion with an undercover agent in April.  The men also discussed making bombs with the agent, the criminal complaint said.

In a conversation seven months ago with an NYPD undercover agent, Ferhani said: “We will blow up a synagogue in Manhattan and take out the whole building,” according to the DA. The defendants also talked about blowing up a church in Queens, the complaint said.

The church was not identified by authorities.

Ferhani, who was jailed at Rikers Island on unknown charges at some point, has lived with his family in Queens since 1995.

If convicted of the charges, the men could face life in prison.

Ferhani, who had purchased three guns, a hand grenade and ammunition, had also discussed bombing the Empire State building with an undercover NYPD agent, the DA said.

Updated 10:44 am, October 12, 2011
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