ISLAMBERG, N. Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo has increased state police patrols at this Muslim enclave in upstate New York that authorities say four young men from the Rochester area had targeted for an armed attack.
The governor also said he would “hold those behind this thwarted plot responsible to the full extent of the law.”
The suspects were arrested last weekend after police in the Rochester suburb of Greece investigated reports that a 16-year-old high school junior at Odyssey Academy raised concern with mention of a cellphone photo of a person he said looked like the next school shooter.
The investigation determined the male student and three other young men had cumulated three homemade pipe bombs and some 23 rifles and shotguns, with the intent to attack the Muslims of Islamberg, police said.
Islamberg is a self-named hamlet two hours northwest of New York City. It was established in 1980 in Delaware County by the Muslims of America, Inc., as a haven for Muslims from Brooklyn who wanted to escape the crowds and crime of a big city.
Conspiracy groups have alleged it is a terrorist training camp, a claim New York authorities have dismissed as groundless. A 2015 plot to attack the community led to the conviction of a Tennessee man and a 20-year federal prison term.
In the latest plot, weapons possession and conspiracy charges were filed against Brian Colaneri, 20, Gates, New York; Andrew Crysel, 18, East Rochester, New York; and Vincent Vetromile, 19, Greece, New York. The 16-year-old student from Odyssey Academy was charged as an adolescent offender and his name withheld.
"It is beyond tragic that our nation continues to fester with Islamophobia, hate and religious intolerance," the Muslim group said in a prepared statement. "To bring justice and properly deter similar terrorist plots against our community, we are calling for the individuals charged, as well as their accomplices, to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
Islamberg Mayor Rashid Clark described the 60-acre community of 200 Muslims as a peaceful homestead.
“We grow crops, raise animals, live like law-abiding citizens,” said Clark. “We are part of the normal community. We are citizens of the United States, we are functioning residents; we hold jobs as doctors, lawyers, engineers, construction workers. This is a tragic event that hurts our hearts.”
Hussein Adams, the chief executive of Muslims of America Inc, said his organization operates 21 other Muslim communities across the country. He said the “misuse of social media and internet to spread lies” results in anti-Muslim rhetoric that has led to threats against Islamberg.
“We need to continue an open dialogue to avoid misinterpretations of what it is to be Muslim,” said Adams. “The stakes are too high. What if they were successful? What would have happened then? The loss of life would have been unbearable.”
Whitney Bashaw is a reporter for The Daily Star in Oneonta, New York. Reach her at email@example.com.