Four charged over plot to bomb New York's Islamberg Muslim community

Four charged over plot to bomb New York's Islamberg Muslim community
Police have charged three men and a school student over allegedly plotting to bomb a Muslim community in rural upstate New York.
3 min read
23 January, 2019
Three of the adults charged were former Boy Scouts [Greece Police]

Three men and a high school student were charged with plotting to attack Islamberg - a rural upstate New York Muslim community - with explosives, authorities said on Tuesday.

The would-be attackers, three of whom were former Boy Scouts, are accused of plotting to attack the small Muslim enclave west of the Catskills, according to court papers.

At the time of their weekend arrests, the men had access to 23 rifles and shotguns and three home-made explosives, Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan said at a press conference.

He did not rule out the possibility of additional arrests.

Charged with weapons possession and conspiracy were 20-year-old Brian Colaneri, 18-year-old Andrew Crysel and 19-year-old Vincent Vetromile. A 16-year-old student at Odyssey Academy in Greece was charged as an adolescent offender.

Police tip off

Police say they launched an investigation after a lunchroom comment made by the student.

"He looks like the next school shooter, doesn't he?" the student allegedly said, while showing students a picture of another boy on his phone, according to Phelan.

A student who heard the comment "did what we teach kids to do and told somebody", the police chief said.

School security and Greece police interviewed both students and others and eventually "uncovered... a plot to attack an Islamic community in Delaware County, known as Islamberg", Phelan said.

The student in the picture was not charged, he said.

Police also searched five locations and seized 23 weapons and numerous electronic devices, including phones and computers. Most of the weapons were rifles and shotguns, some of which were legally owned by relatives of the suspects, authorities said.

Three improvised explosive devices wrapped in duct tape were found at the 16-year-old’s house.

"They were homemade bombs with various items — black powder, BBs, nails, inside a container," Phelan said.

Muslim enclave

Police and analysts have dismissed accusations that the 60-acre community is a terrorist training ground, but the claims have persisted for decades.

In 2017, a Tennessee man was convicted on federal charges for what authorities called plans to burn down Islamberg's mosque in 2015. Robert Doggart, now 67, is serving time in federal prison.

The New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations called for federal charges in addition to the state charges.

"Anyone accused of plotting an act of violence targeting a religious minority should face state and federal hate crime and civil rights charges commensurate with the seriousness of their alleged actions," CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher said in a statement.