THE BROTHER-IN-LAW of the three Duka brothers, accused in a plot to murder soldiers at Fort Dix, sees special significance in the fact that they gave their roofing companies "patriotic" names.
They wouldn't have named their companies "Colonial" and "National" if they didn't love this country, said Luigi Gaeuci.
"They were raised here," he said. "They lived here. They never even seen their country. They don't remember their country. They love this country. If they didn't love this country, do you think they would have been here?"
Speaking of his brothers-in-law, Dritan Duka, 28; Eljvir Duka, 23, and Shain Duka, 26, all of Cherry Hill, he said, "They were not involved in terrorism. The truth will come out. They didn't do nothing."
The Duka brothers are all in this country illegally. They are Albanians born in Macedonia.
They and Mohamed Ibrahim Shnewer, 22, of Cherry Hill, a U.S. citizen born in Jordan, and Serdar Tatar, 23, of Philadelphia, a legal resident born in Turkey, were arrested Monday night by federal agents after a 16-month investigation.
All five are being held on federal charges of conspiring to murder uniformed military personnel. The Dukas are also charged as illegal aliens possessing firearms.
A sixth defendant, Agron Abdullahu, 24, of Buena Vista Township, Atlantic County, is accused of aiding and abetting the Dukas in obtaining firearms, a lesser charge.
The feds said the conspirators had planned to buy automatic weapons from an undercover agent, which led to their arrests, and had made clear their violent intentions in conversations recorded by the undercover agent.
Ironically, Abdullahu came to Fort Dix eight years ago with a large contingent of Muslim immigrants fleeing religious persecution in Kosovo.
Five of the suspects are related. Abdullahu is the Dukas' cousin, and Shnewer is their brother-in-law.
Family members and people who know the alleged conspirators all expressed shock and disbelief at the charges against the young men when interviewed yesterday.
Gaeuci is married to the Dukas' sister, Naza. He said the family feels "afraid, panicked, horrified." He said his wife has not been able to contact her brothers.
He said the Duka brothers ran their roofing businesses with their father, Ferik Duka, out of their home on Mimosa Drive in Cherry Hill. But neither Colonial nor National Roofing is registered with the state of New Jersey or Camden County, officials said.
"Shocked" is an inadequate word to describe James Atalah's horror when he discovered that Mohamed Shnewer, an employee of the Philadelphia cab company where he works as an official, is accused of plotting to kill soldiers at Fort Dix.
He was especially horrified because his 25-year-old cousin is stationed there.
"For God's sake, if something would have happened to my cousin!" he exclaimed.
Shnewer was arrested in his cab at Philadelphia International Airport.
Atalah said he is a consultant to All City Taxi Inc., which is owned by his fiancee, Maria Perri. He said that Shnewer had been driving for the company for three months but that Shnewer's father, Ibrahim Mohamed Shnewer, has worked for the company for three years and is now a supervisor.
He said the father bought his son a van, which he was using as a cab. The purchase came after the son had failed to successfully run his father's Middle-Eastern grocery store on Route 70 East in Cherry Hill.
Perri said she knew the son as a "good citizen."
"He never gave us any trouble or anything," she said. "I was really shocked to hear these kind of things going on."
"In my opinion, if you don't like it here, go home," said Atalah, who is from Jordan. "We come here for peace. We come here for freedom."
Ismal Badat, president of the Islamic Center in Palmyra, Burlington County, which the Duka brothers attended, said everyone there was dumbfounded by the charges.
The brothers showed no signs of harboring hostilities, he said.
"Nothing. These were religious kids. They were hardworking boys. They were very friendly, well-behaved, well-mannered. There was nothing to indicate they were going off the path," Badat said.
"We don't talk about hatred at our mosque. We come to pray. Islam denounces terrorism."
According to law-enforcement sources, the Duka family entered the U.S. illegally in 1984. The family came from Macedonia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. The family later sought asylum in this country, but was denied, a source said.
When the three brothers were arrested Monday night, their father, Ferik Duka, was arrested on illegal-immigration charges, a source said.
His wife, who is also here illegally, was not arrested because she has to care for the family's youngest child, who is 16, a source said.
That child, the Duka brothers' sibling, was born in the United States and is a U.S. citizen. The mother is expected to face a deportation hearing before federal immigration authorities on her status.
Shain Duka and Eljvir Duka are former students at Cherry Hill High School West, as were Tatar and Shnewer.
The Duka brothers might have become truck drivers for their own roofing companies, but they had poor driving records and didn't have driver's licenses.
Eljvir Duka, 23, has 23 active points and 24 suspensions. Dritan Duka has five active points and 11 suspensions. Shain Duka, the only brother who had obtained a driver's license, has three active points and 19 suspensions. His license expired in May 2003.
Violations included speeding, careless driving, improper passing and disobeying traffic-control signals, said Mike Horan, spokesman for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.
"If you're illegal, you can't get anything from us," Horan said. "You don't belong."