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Police: Bomb plot suspects scouted many sites

Two men charged with conspiring to blow up subway station

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly
New York

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Two men arrested Friday on suspicion of plotting to blow up a New York City subway station had also scouted other locations in the city, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Saturday.

"It is important to stress that to the best of our knowledge, they had no ties to international terrorist organizations," Kelly told reporters. He also said there is "no indication" their activities were related in any way to the Republication National Convention, which begins Monday in Manhattan.

The men believed a confidential police informant would provide them with explosives, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice. The informant never did so.

The men were arraigned Saturday in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, on charges of conspiring to blow up the 34th Street subway station at Herald Square.

Herald Square is a shopping area in Midtown Manhattan near Macy's and several other retail stores, at the intersection of Broadway and 34th Street. Eight of New York's 25 subway routes run through Herald Square.

The men were identified as Shahawar Matin Siraj, 21, a native of Pakistan who lives in Jackson Heights in Queens, and James el-Shafay, 19, a U.S. citizen from the city's Staten Island borough.

If convicted, Siraj and el-Shafay would face a prison sentence of from five to 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

Both men indicated they understood the charges. They were ordered held without bail, and another hearing date was not set.

El-Shafay's mother wept during the court proceeding, and he blew kisses at her. She then passed prescription drugs to her son via his attorney, Tom Dunn, but was denied a chance to visit with him after court.

Outside the courthouse, a relative of el-Shafay said "We think that these charges are false."

The men's motive appeared to be "basically hatred for the system," Kelly said. He said they talked about the commercial shops at the subway station, and also talked in general terms about explosives being placed at the 42nd Street station and the station at 59th Street and Lexington.

Kelly said the police department's intelligence division had been investigating them for about a year. At one time, one of the men scouted three police stations and a bridge, and drew a map of the locations, he said. Last Saturday, they were seen visiting the Herald Square station, Kelly said.

CNN's Jamie McShane, Jeanne Meserve and Deborah Feyerick contributed to this report.

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