The two New Jersey men arrested and charged with terrorism last weekend made their first court appearance Monday in another disturbing case of home-grown terror.
A New York Police Department undercover unit played a key role in nabbing the two American citizens who are said to be students of al Qaeda.
Twenty-four-year-old Carlos Eduardo Almonte and 20-year-old Mohamed Mahmood Alessa appeared in federal court on Monday, charged with conspiracy to kill Americans overseas.
"They had finally purchased plane tickets and were on their way out of the country," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said.
Federal agents arrested the men at John F. Kennedy Airport before they boarded their flights to Egypt Saturday night.
Investigators say the terror suspects were heading to Somalia, where they hoped to join the al Qaeda-tied al Shabab terror group.
"Thank goodness this time we were ahead of the game," New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The suspects' families are said to have tipped off the FBI. And an undercover New York police officer secretly recorded hours of conversations with the two suspects.
"The complaint alleges pretty carefully and pretty clearly that their intentions were described quite clearly to the undercover agent," Fishman said.
Prosecutors say their intent was to kill, maim or kidnap people outside the United States.
"Once again, there was a link to Anwar al Alaki, that al Qaeda cleric who has been linked to so many major terrorist plot over the last six months, including Fort Hood, the Christmas Day bomber, Times Square. Apparently, these two Jihadists were inspired by recordings by none other than Anwar Al Alaki," said CBN News Terrorism Analyst Erick Stakelbeck, who is following the case.
Both men were actually on the government's no-fly list. But federal agents removed the suspects' names so they could make their plane reservations. The move was a part of an elaborate sting to take the two suspected terrorists into custody.