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Muslim enclave that was foiled attack target urges justice

Published
This combination of three Jan. 22, 2019, photographs released by the Greece Police Department in Greece, N.Y., shows Brian Colaneri, from left, Andrew Crysel and Vincent Vetromile. Authorities said that the three men were charged with plotting to attack a rural upstate New York Muslim community with explosives. The three Rochester, NY-area men are accused of plotting to attack Islamberg, a 60-acre Muslim enclave west of the Catskills, according to court papers. (Greece Police Department via AP)

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A Muslim group called Wednesday for full prosecutions against the four people accused of plotting an attack on the group's rural enclave named Islamberg in upstate New York.

The arrests of three Rochester-area men and a 16-year-old who had access to homemade explosives and firearms sent shockwaves through the family-centered community, leaders of The Muslims of America said. The community of about 200 residents has been dogged by allegations on right-wing websites that it is a terrorist training camp, and it was the target of a similar plot in 2015.

"Let us be clear, the terrorist threat against Islamberg by the four current suspects is about hatred toward Islam and hatred toward American Muslims," Hussein Adams, chief executive of The Muslims of America, told reporters at a news conference in Binghamton.

Authorities in suburban Rochester on Tuesday announced weapons possession and conspiracy charges against Brian Colaneri, 20; Andrew Crysel, 18; and Vincent Vetromile, 19. A 16-year-old student at Odyssey Academy in Greece, a Rochester suburb, was charged as an adolescent offender.

The three adult suspects were due back in court Feb. 5.

Their lawyers did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment Wednesday, and attempts to reach relatives weren't successful.

At the time of their weekend arrests, the men, three of whom were in Boy Scouts together, had access to 23 rifles and shotguns and three homemade explosives, Greece police said. Investigators uncovered the plot after a student reported a suspicious comment in a lunchroom Friday.

The Muslims of America are followers of Sheikh Mubarik Gilani and run 22 communities in North America. The mostly African-American settlers of Islamberg first came to upstate New York in the 1980s to escape crime and crowding in New York City.

Police and analysts have dismissed accusations that the community — 120 miles (190 kilometers) southeast of Rochester — is a terrorist training ground. But the claims have persisted for decades .

"The lies about Islamberg have been proven wrong countless times," Adams said. "But what speaks volumes is that after 30 years there have been no instances where members of our community have done anything related to these accusations."

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.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that troopers were increasing patrols around Islamberg "out of an abundance of caution" and that he directed the State Police Hate Crimes Unit to assist authorities in the investigation.

"In New York, we stand with the Muslim community and we will hold those behind this thwarted plot responsible to the full extent of the law," the Democratic governor said in a prepared statement.

This combination of three Jan. 22, 2019, photographs released by the Greece Police Department in Greece, N.Y., shows Brian Colaneri, from left, Andrew Crysel and Vincent Vetromile. Authorities said that the three men were charged with plotting to attack a rural upstate New York Muslim community with explosives. The three Rochester, NY-area men are accused of plotting to attack Islamberg, a 60-acre Muslim enclave west of the Catskills, according to court papers. (Greece Police Department via AP)
This combination of three Jan. 22, 2019, photographs released by the Greece Police Department in Greece, N.Y., shows Brian Colaneri, from left, Andrew Crysel and Vincent Vetromile. Authorities said that the three men were charged with plotting to attack a rural upstate New York Muslim community with explosives. The three Rochester, NY-area men are accused of plotting to attack Islamberg, a 60-acre Muslim enclave west of the Catskills, according to court papers. (Greece Police Department via AP)