The first time Kathleen Baines saw Maksud was on Wednesday, May 20. Like everyone else, she knew the well-to-do Pakistani by his first name only. He had started appearing here the previous September, wandering around outside Masjid al-Ikhlas (the “mosque of devotion”) in town, meeting people in a popular local restaurant, paying for their meals and offering financial help.
Frequenters of the mosque, some of them immigrants from East Asia and others African Americans, could not help but notice that Maksud had five vehicles, including a Mercedes, a BMW and an ATV.
On that Wednesday in May, Maksud arrived in the neighborhood in one of his cars at about 4 P.M. and stopped at Baines’ house. He has a narrow face, she recalls now, and peroxided hair. He would wear sunglasses and expensive shoes. Whenever he came to look for her partner, James Cromitie, in recent months, he would remain outside, and this time was no different.
“Where is the brother?” he asked, and she answered from the window: “James is on his motorbike with my son.” Maksud asked her what his cellular phone number was. The question sounded strange to Baines since he was the one who had given James the phone…
On that day in May when she tried to reach him by phone, Baines did not know that Maksud, Cromitie and three of their friends were on their way to Riverdale in the Bronx, to carry out what Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Snyder described later as an unimaginable, blood-curdling plot: planting bombs in parked cars next to a Riverdale synagogue and Jewish cultural center, and shooting missiles at a helicopter at Newburgh’s Air National Guard base.
The lethal plot was foiled, however. One of the five men put the bombs in place while three others kept watch. But no one was aware that the bombs had been defused earlier by the Federal Bureau of Investigation – and that FBI officers, members of the New York Police Department and a joint anti-terror force were lying in wait for them…
Salahuddin Muhammad, the imam of the local mosque, was not surprised. “We thought he was an informer,” he told both journalists and the children who study in the mosque. The children saw all the media buzz and were disturbed that the name of their mosque had come up in connection with the plot. “We wondered what to do,” the imam explained to the youngsters. “How should we tell the authorities that we suspected him? But it was the authorities who had sent him.”
Maksud, it later transpired, is a Pakistani immigrant who was arrested in 2002 for selling fake driving licenses to immigrants. In order to avoid serving a jail sentence and being exiled, he agreed to work for the FBI. An on-the-ball journalist from The New York Post realized this was the same federal informer who had worked five years earlier in Albany, New York, in a similar fashion. (More)