Four young men were arrested in upstate New York over the weekend for an alleged plot to attack a small Muslim community, called Islamberg, 150 miles northwest of New York City.* Police announced charges Tuesday against three suspects from suburban Rochester, ranging 18-to-20 years old, along with a 16-year-old minor high school student, who, over the course of about a month, stockpiled 23 firearms and three homemade bombs filled with black powder and nails to carry out the planned attack. The young men communicated on a chat app, Discord, that is popular among the far-right, according to police.
Police said Tuesday it remains unclear how the four individuals are linked, although three were Boy Scouts and two Eagle Scouts, offering one possible connection. Their motive is also unclear; Islamberg is roughly a three-hour drive away. The 60-acre hamlet is home to Muslim families that settled in the area in the 1980s and today is home to about 200 people. “The community was settled in the 1980s by followers of a Pakistani cleric, Mubarik Ali Shah Gilani,” the New York Times reports. “The initial settlers were predominantly African-American Muslims who left New York City looking for a better place to practice their religion and raise their children.” It is also home to the headquarters of the Muslims of America organization, according to the Associated Press. Despite being a small, remote residential community, Islamberg has, of late, caught the attention of far-right conspiracy theorists, including from Alex Jones and Infowars and even Fox News, where, NPR reports, it was suggested that Muslims were “stockpiling guns” on the “compound” in Islamberg in response to President Trump’s election.
Police were tipped off to the plot when the 16-year-old suspect showed classmates at Greece Odyssey Academy in Greece, N.Y. a picture on his phone that he said looked like a potential school shooter. Another student reported the comment and interaction to school officials, triggering a police investigation to see whether there was a threat to students. Police uncovered the terrorist plot and arrested 20-year-old Brian Colaneri, 18-year-old Andrew Crysel, and 19-year-old Vincent Vetromile, along with the 16-year-old student who is being treated as an adolescent offender.
Correction, Jan. 23, 2019: This post originally misstated that Islamberg is northeast of New York City. It is northwest.