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Target of terror plot, Fort Dix (N.J.) trained military for 90 years

By JEFFREY GOLD, Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

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NEWARK, N.J. — For nearly all of the 90 years that Fort Dix has trained American military personnel, the gravest threat it faced has been the nation's periodic base-closing efforts.

That changed Tuesday, when federal prosecutors charged six nearby residents with plotting to attack the base and kill as many soldiers as possible.

"We have known this since 9/11 — the threat of attack is real," said U.S. Rep. James Saxton, a Republican who represents the region.

"This serves as a stark reminder that the threat of jihadists around the world and even here at home is very, very real," he said. "It is not a threat that exists only in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East."

Saxton said the base has been on its highest security alert level ever since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Since then, the once-open Fort Dix is now closed to the public, with heavily armed DOD police officers and X-ray machines at entrances, along with concrete barriers to make it impossible for vehicles to rush the entrances.

Fort Dix last hit the international spotlight in 1999, when it sheltered more than 4,000 ethnic Albanian refugees during the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.

After the war, refugees were allowed to return to the U.N.-run province of Kosovo in the new nation of Serbia or seek permanent residency and citizenship in the United States. The U.N. Security Council is considering whether to approve a plan to grant Kosovo independence from Serbia under the supervision of the European Union and the United States.

Authorities on Tuesday said four of the suspects in the terror plot were born in the former Yugoslavia, one in Jordan and one in Turkey. All had lived in the United States for years. Three were in the United States illegally; two had green cards allowing them to stay in this country permanently, and the sixth is a U.S. citizen.

When Fort Dix opened in 1917, it trained soldiers being sent overseas to fight in World War I. It was named for Maj. Gen. John Adams Dix, who served as governor of New York from 1873 to 1874.

The base, about 25 miles east of Philadelphia, now specializes in training and processing Army Reserve and National Guard members called to active duty. It covers 50 square miles in an area known as the Pinelands.

It survived base-closing efforts in 1988 and 1991. In the latest round in 2005, the base closing commission decided to create a "mega base" that would unite Fort Dix with the adjoining McGuire Air Force Base and Lakehurst Naval Air Station.

Saxton spokesman Jeff Sagnip said Fort Dix has 15,000 people, including 14,000 soldiers, while McGuire has 16,500 people, including 11,500 military. Lakehurst employs 3,000 civilians, he said.

Soldiers at Fort Dix, Sagnip said, have been training for Iraq and Afghanistan warfare.

"Everything is a replica of what they would face in the field," Sagnip said.

After Tuesday, that included the very real threat of a terrorist attack.


Associated Press writer Tom Hester Jr. in Trenton contributed to this report.


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