CAIR: REPORT: JFK '05 TERROR TARGET
The plot never unfolded, but learning that a group of extremist Muslim physicians schemed in 2005 to attack the USS John F. Kennedy and Mayport Naval Station has some on the First Coast sitting up and taking notice.
"The fact they're even talking about it gives us concern," Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton said Thursday, the same day that The Telegraph of London reported the Internet-based terror plot against the now-decommissioned aircraft carrier.
The Navy is also paying attention, Mayport spokesman Bill Austin said.
"When something like this arises, obviously we've got all hands looking into it," Austin said.
FBI Special Agent Jeff Westcott of the bureau's Jacksonville office released a statement Thursday saying the agency "thoroughly investigated" the plot in 2006 and determined the threat "was not credible."
Even so, news of the plot generated some local concern because of its similarities to last week's failed car bombings in London and Glasgow. Both plots were hatched by extremist Muslim doctors, The Telegraph and The Associated Press reported.
The Associated Press also reported that an al-Qaida leader in Jordan had vowed previously that "those who cure you are going to kill you."
"There's no way of knowing two years later whether it [the Kennedy plot] was just fantasy or whatever, but given what has happened here [in the United Kingdom] in the past few days it ... suggests to me this may be a theme in international jihadi discussions," John Steele, the author of The Telegraph article, told the Times-Union.
The Kennedy plot came to public light during the London trial of three men accused of disseminating terrorist material on the Internet, Steele said.
British investigators considered the information important enough to pass on to American law enforcement but have yet to find any connection between the Kennedy and London plots, a Scotland Yard spokeswoman told the Times-Union.
According to the Telegraph article, police uncovered a Feb. 12, 2005, chatroom transcript in which 45 Muslim doctors vowed "to undertake jihad and take the battle inside America."
The message said "nine brothers" would use six cars, three fishing boats and rocket-propelled grenades to attack the Kennedy and fuel tanks at Mayport, the Telegraph reported.
Some local officials said they were never notified about the plot, while others refused to say.
Peyton spokeswoman Susie Wiles said City Hall was not informed about the terror plan.
Laurie-Ellen Smith, a spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, referred all questions to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which in turn referred all questions to the FBI.
Lorin Mock, chief of emergency preparedness for Jacksonville Fire and Rescue, said he was not informed but added that he wouldn't expect to be if the FBI dismissed the threat.
Real or not, news of the Kennedy plan was the source of concern for some.
Parvez Ahmed, a Jacksonville resident and chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he hopes Americans won't lump all Muslims or Muslim doctors in with the perpetrators of such plots.
"Any Muslim doctor who is planning any act of terrorism is betraying both their profession and their faith," Ahmed said. "I would urge people not to use this as a reason to stereotype doctors or Muslims."