At least five people were arrested on charges they plotted to attack the Fort Dix Army base and “kill as many soldiers as possible,” federal authorities said Tuesday.
The suspects were scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Camden later Tuesday to face charges of conspiracy to kill U.S. servicemen, said Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey.
Five of them lived in Cherry Hill, about 10 miles east of Philadelphia and 20 miles southwest of Fort Dix, he said.
“They were planning an attack on Fort Dix in which they would kill as many soldiers as possible,” Drewniak said.
The suspects were described as “Islamic radicals” by Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office. A law enforcement source told FOX News that all of the suspects are recent converts and were not born Muslims.
The source told FOX News that there were between five and six arrests; the exact number is unclear.
The Associated Press reported that those captured were nationals of the former Yugoslavia, but the law enforcement source told FOX News that not all of them are of Albanian ethnicity.
Law enforcement officials said the attack was stopped in the planning stages and that the men were arrested while trying to buy automatic weapons in a sale set up by law enforcement authorities.
Authorities believe the men trained for the attack in the woods in the Poconos and allegedly conducted surveillance at other area military institutions, including the Army’s Fort Monmouth, the official said.
The official said the men had lived in the United States for some time and were arrested as part of a joint federal and local investigation.
State Police Capt. Al Della Fave said Tuesday that the investigation had been in the works for about a year. The case documents are still sealed.
The Star-Ledger of Newark reported on its Web site that the men had agreed to buy AK-47 assault rifles from an arms dealer who was secretly cooperating with the FBI. It cited a law enforcement person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak about the arrests.
Jerri Williams, spokeswoman for the FBI in Philadelphia, said U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark and J.P. Weis, special agent in charge of the FBI in Philadelphia, have scheduled a news conference for 2:30 p.m. at the U.S. District Courthouse in Camden.
Fort Dix is used to train soldiers, particularly reservists. It also housed refugees from Kosovo in 1999.
In 1999, Fort Dix sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
After the war, refugees were allowed to return to the U.N.-run province of Kosovo in the new nation of Serbia or to seek permanent residency and citizenship in the United States. The U.N. Security Council is considering whether to approve a plan to grant Kosovo independence from Serbia under the supervision of the European Union and the United States.
FOX News’ Ian McCaleb and The Associated Press contributed to this report.