Authorities described the young men as masterminds of a chilling plot.

But for alleged terrorists, they weren't exactly astute.

It seemed most everyone on their block knew that the feds had the men under surveillance. Everyone but them, that is.

Residents in the two Cherry Hill neighborhoods where four of the six suspects lived said it was hard to miss the unmarked police cars with tinted windows and Pennsylvania tags.

The police cars, neighbors said, had parked in front of their homes for nearly a year.

And sometimes the men sitting in the cars would roll down the dark windows and aim a camera with a telephoto lens directly at the suspects' homes.

In fact, neighbors said, they were so wigged out by the clandestine vigil outside their homes that they called the Cherry Hill police more than once.

"The police pulled up and the guy inside dropped the window a crack and the badge came up," said Dom Bauer, who lives across Tampa Avenue in Cherry Hill from one of the suspects, Mohamed Shnewer.

"The police left and they stayed there," Bauer added. "That pretty much said, 'I'm the FBI. Keep going.' "

Valerie and Tim Hughes, who live a few doors away from Shnewer, said they also called local authorities to report the eavesdroppers.

"Whoever was sitting in the car flashed a badge and the township police just left," Valerie Hughes said. "We kind of figured it out. We didn't know what was going on but we knew something was up."

Neighbors said they noticed a steady stream of vans with out-of-state plates - New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts - coming and going from Shnewer's house at all hours of the night.

"We always knew something was going on over there," said Steve Bender, 57, whose son is in the Navy. "We didn't know what. Now I'm angry. You fight for your country and you work hard and you come home and you gotta put up with this? And they want to come here and kill our people?"

Bauer, 40, an aircraft mechanic for United Airlines who said he knew the flight crew killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, expressed dismay about having a suspected terrorist living right across the street.

"It's so shocking," Bauer said. "It's my house. It's my neighborhood. It's right here . . . Who could believe it could happen in Cherry Hill in such a lovely community?"

Neighbors farther down Route 70 in Cherry Hill on Mimosa Drive said they, too, noticed the guys in unfamiliar cars keeping watch on the block. The men would point cameras at 215 Mimosa Dr., where three suspects lived.

Michael Levine, who lives two doors down from three suspects - brothers Eljvir Duka, 23, Dritan Duka, 28, and Shain Duka, 26 - said he noticed two guys sitting in a silver Pontiac Grand Prix with tinted windows near his home in October or November.

"I called police and said there was a suspicious vehicle out on the street," Levine said. "I got a call back from a detective saying, 'Don't worry about it. We know why they're there. You're not in harm's way.' "

Greg Hilbert, who lives diagonally across from the Dukas, said the only strange thing he noticed was the barnyard animals the family kept in their back yard. Chickens ran around the yard. At night, he'd hear sheep or goats baaing, Hilbert said.

"They just had a different lifestyle than a typical American suburbanite," Hilbert said. "We didn't socialize with them. They didn't invite us over for a lamb roast."

Hilbert's son, Stephan, a Marine, said he came back from his second Iraq tour in 2005.

"I thought I battled all my terrorists over there," he said. "I know there are terrorists in our country, but [your perspective] changes when you're looking right across the street from your front door and seeing a house that potentially housed it." *