A spokesman for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation says a group of would-be terrorists plotting to blow up a New York City airport had no link to the al-Qaida terrorist network, but was probably inspired by it.
Federal officials say they have charged four suspects in a plot to blow up John F. Kennedy International Airport, one of the world's busiest, by targeting the facility's enormous fuel tanks.
Three of the four suspects were arrested Friday and Saturday in New York and the Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. One of the three is a naturalized U.S. citizen and former airport employee. A fourth suspect is still at large and believed to be in Trinidad.
FBI spokesman John Miller said on U.S. television Sunday that the suspects were trying to get a Trinidad-based Muslim extremist group, Jamaat al-Muslimeen, to finance their plan and provide them with explosives.
But authorities say the plot never went beyond the early planning stage, and the public was never in imminent danger.
Federal law enforcement officials had been tracking the plot through an informant since January 2006. Miller said the FBI waited to make arrests until it had gleaned all the intelligence it could from the case.
Authorities say one of the suspects unwittingly bragged to the informant that he believed the airport attack would be worse than the attacks of September 11, 2001 that destroyed the World Trade Center towers.
Three suspects are from the small South American country of Guyana. A fourth suspect is from Trinidad. One of the suspects in custody is a former member of parliament in Guyana.
Kennedy Airport has a fuel distribution network with 80 kilometers of pipelines and more than 100 large storage tanks that can hold more than three-quarters of a million barrels of jet fuel.
Engineering experts say if the suspects had succeeded, the explosions likely would have destroyed the entire airport.
A White House spokeswoman, Jeanie Mamo, says President Bush was briefed on the case. She called the arrests a "good example of international counterterrorism cooperation."