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Ft. Dix jurors start deliberations

Jurors in the Fort Dix trial finished their first day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.

They received the case today after eight weeks of testimony and two days of closing arguments.

They now face the task of deciding whether the five defendants, all foreign-born Muslims raised in South Jersey, intended to carry out an attack on the Army base.

Two FBI informants secretly recorded hundreds of their conversations, capturing them talking incessantly about jihad, weapons and how they could strike back at America.

Prosecutors said the men were inspired to plan their attack by jihadist videos and radical Islamic lectures downloaded from the Internet. Jurors watched many of those videos, which depicted beheadings, attacks on American forces overseas and a tribute to the 19 hijackers who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

The defense countered that the men never intended to carry out an attack, that their conversations amounted to nothing more than tough talk from alienated young men.

They said the two informants - particularly Mahmoud Omar, an Egyptian illegal alien convicted of a federal bank fraud in 2002 - goaded the young men into making their most inflammatory statements and plans. Omar was paid about $240,000 for his cooperation.

The defendants had no final plan and no time-frame for carrying out an attack, but prosecutors said they didn't need to have either to be convicted of conspiracy to kill U.S. soldiers. That charge carries a possible life sentence.

The prosecution said defendant Mohamad Shnewer surveilled Fort Dix and other bases with Omar, while discussing ways to attack them. The defense said the surveillance amounted to driving up the main gates of the bases and turning around.

Brothers Dritan, Eljvir and Shain Duka were accused of "training" for their mission at a Poconos firing range and playing paintball. The defense said their annual trips to the Poconos were vacations.

Dritan and Shain Duka were arrested on May 7, 2007 while attempting to buy seven rifles from Omar. Their attorneys said those guns were intended only for the firing range.

The final defendant, Serdar Tatar, gave a map of Fort Dix to Omar. His family kept the map in their pizzeria, which delivered to the base. But Tatar also told a Philadelphia police sergeant about Omar asking for the map, and was later interviewed by the FBI.

The anonymously-chosen jurors will be sequestered until they reach a decision.