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Six Charged in Plot To Attack Fort Dix

U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie speaks to reporters at a news conference at the federal courthouse in Camden, N.J.
U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie speaks to reporters at a news conference at the federal courthouse in Camden, N.J. "They wanted to be jihadists," Christie said of the men arrested. (By Bradley C. Bower -- Bloomberg News)

Shnewer also allegedly said: "When you got a military base, you need mortars and RPGs."

Three defendants are ethnic Albanian brothers from the former Yugoslavia who operated a roofing business in Cherry Hill and lived in the United States illegally: Eljvir Duka, 23, Dritan Duka, 28, and Shain Duka, 26. A sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu, 24, also an ethnic Albanian born in the former Yugoslavia, is charged with helping the Dukas illegally obtain firearms.

The Duka brothers lived with their parents in a beige two-story house on Mimosa Drive, a winding suburban street. The brothers also did car repairs from the house, neighbors said.

"They did everything together," said neighbor Mike Levine. "It was like they were attached at the hip."

The Duka home was empty Tuesday, and the brothers' red pickup with a ladder and roofing materials in the back was parked in front of it. A blue BMW and a white minivan sat in the driveway. The front yard was manicured, with two palm trees, sculpted flowerpots bearing lilies and impatiens, and a flower bed with colorful spring blooms.

Neighbors said the family had lived on the block for about seven years and had always seemed different from other suburbanites. There were 10 to 20 people living there -- two parents, five children, five grandchildren, daughters-in-law and others. The family raised sheep, goats and roosters in the back yard.

Neighbors said this violated local ordinances, and they periodically called police, who would write citations, after which the animals would disappear -- but only for a time. The neighbors said they noticed that the father and mother wore religious garb and that the father and sons all had beards and prayed at various times during the day. But no one considered them militant, several neighbors said.

Some neighbors, however, said they had become suspicious in recent months when the women and children of the large clan moved away, leaving only the men and the mother.

"We all wondered -- where did the ladies go? Where are the children?" said Susan DeFrancesco, who lives across the street and who said her children used to ride the bus to school with the Duka grandchildren.

One law enforcement source close to the investigation said that it was "hard to say" whether the group would have followed through on an attack, but that authorities had to err on the side of caution in making the arrests.

"Obviously, these guys had some radical beliefs and the stuff they downloaded from the Web was very serious," said the source, who requested anonymity so that he could discuss an ongoing case. "But it's not like they were going to be able to get rocket-propelled grenades and blow things up."

The Duka brothers are charged with conspiracy to murder members of the armed forces and face possible life sentences. Abdullahu is charged with aiding and abetting illegal weapons possession and faces 10 years in prison. All six were held without bond after a court appearance Tuesday.

Fort Dix, which has about 14,000 soldiers, sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999.

But Christie said the Dukas are believed to have entered the United States before that conflict and were not among the refugees held at Fort Dix. One U.S. law enforcement official said the brothers may have entered the country legally but overstayed visas or violated other immigration requirements.

Eggen reported from Washington. Staff writers Sari Horwitz and Spencer S. Hsu and staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.


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