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FBI informant testifies in New York synagogue bomb plot trial

By Christina Romano, CNN
The four defendants are accused of planning to blow up two Jewish houses of worship in New York City.
The four defendants are accused of planning to blow up two Jewish houses of worship in New York City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Undercover audio and video tapes were played for the jury
  • An undercover informant worked for the FBI for months, prosecutors said
  • Four men are on trial on charges of plotting to blow up two Jewish houses of worship
RELATED TOPICS
  • New York City
  • Terrorism
  • Religion

New York (CNN) -- Jurors in the trial of the four men accused of planning to blow up two Jewish houses of worship in New York City spent two days this week listening to and watching hours of dramatic footage recorded by an FBI informant in the case.

According to testimony in federal court in Manhattan, Shahed Hussain worked undercover for the FBI for months, secretly recording meetings with James Cromitie, the alleged ringleader in what is known as the synagogue bomb plot.

Cromitie and three other men -- David Williams, Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen -- from Newburgh, New York, were arrested May 20, 2009. They face federal charges of conspiring to blow up the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Community Center, in Riverdale, New York. They also have been accused of plotting to fire surface-to-air missiles at a National Guard facility in New York.

Undercover audio and video tapes were played for the jury by the prosecution Monday and Tuesday.

On the tapes, Cromitie was heard telling Hussain: "I am a soldier in America but not for America." He later talked about needing a fatwa, or blessing from an imam. "I'm gonna do something, with or without it, I need to make some noise," he told Hussain in the fall of 2008, according to testimony.

Hussain developed his relationship with Cromitie over months, meeting for coffee and lunches in local restaurants in Newburgh, according to testimony.

Lawyers for the accused men say they were not enthusiastic participants in the plot and were entrapped by Hussain and the FBI.

On the tapes, Hussain was heard discussing weapons and his connections to the Muslim extremist group Jaish I Muhammed -- or Army of Mohammed -- which is based in Pakistan and considered a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department.

Prosecutors played a tape on which Hussain asked Cromitie, "Can we do it, or can we not?"

"Anything is possible," Cromitie responded. "We have the equipment," said Hussain.

"I don't care if there's a whole synagogue of men," Cromitie told Hussain on another tape, according to testimony. "I can take them down. I don't care, I don't care because I know they're the ones."

On a video tape made almost one month before the FBI made the arrests and shown to the jury, Cromitie, Hussain and Williams were seen discussing specific plans to bomb the temple and community center. Hussain also discussed paying Cromitie and his alleged accomplices for the plan.

After Tuesday's testimony, the trial recessed for the Labor Day weekend. Court will resume next Tuesday, and Hussain is expected to be crossed-examined by the defense.