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Manhattan DA warns Queens on rise of radical terrorism in city

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said at Hillcrest Jewish Center in Fresh Meadows this week that prosecutors and law enforcement officials must work with community members to fight the homegrown terrorism that is of increasing concern in the city.

“The rise of local radical terrorism is real,” Vance told Queens and city residents, who packed Hillcrest’s ballroom Sunday. “One of the best methods for detecting radical terrorism are people in our community. They will be some of our best resources.”

Vance spoke at Hillcrest’s 41st-annual Ruth and Arthur Coller Memorial Lecture, which has featured a long list of distinguished speakers, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu and Newark Mayor Cory Booker.

“We wanted the district attorney to come because the premise of this lecture is to be tied to current events and politics,” said Edmond Coller, the son of Ruth and Arthur Coller. “We want people to come and speak on the issues of the day. I thought Cy Vance’s lecture was very enlightening.”

Vance emphasized the importance of his office and law officials throughout the city, working with everyday citizens to fight what he said is a growing number of suspected terrorists who are U.S. citizens, such as Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani American who received a life sentence for pleading guilty to plotting to bomb Times Square.

Three former Flushing High School students have also been in the news in recent months after they were charged by federal prosecutors with an alleged plot to blow up the city subway system. Adis Medunjanin, a 26-year-old Queens College graduate, pleaded not guilty to the charges in federal court in Brooklyn in early August. He attended Flushing HS with Najibullah Zazi and Zarein Ahmedzay, both 26, who have all been charged with being trained by Al Qaeda and planning to bomb the subway system during rush hour, according to court documents.

“Because we believe people in our community will be one of the best resources for us in fighting terrorism, we need to embrace the Muslim community who share our vision,” Vance said.

After being elected to serve as Manhattan DA in 2009, Vance said he immediately prioritized “the ongoing fight against terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

After taking office, Vance said he immediately created a counter-terror specialist position, which oversees and coordinates efforts to identify, investigate and prosecute terrorist plots and organizations. Vance also said he, too, is working closely with federal officials and international groups, such as the Israeli Defense Forces, and is focusing on the prospect of cyberterrorism.

“The next attack from terrorists could come not in the form of guns and bombs with a cyber attack,” Vance said. “The Internet is the new tool of terrorists. Anonymity allows terrorists to thrive.”

Following his speech, the district attorney took questions from the audience, including state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose).

“Several years ago we passed a comprehensive human trafficking law, which our district attorney in Queens has used,” Padavan said. “How have you found this law helpful?”

Vance said he hopes to ramp up efforts to prosecute traffickers.

“We are going to banks to help us identify patterns of money flow or movement,” in order to locate traffickers, Vance said.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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